The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) stated last month that investment
fraud schemes are on the rise nationwide. The statement came as the SEC
and the Justice Department disclosed the results of the largest fraud
sweep ever conducted in the United States: Operation Broken Trust. The
three-and-a-half-month-long sweep focused on an estimated $10.4 billion
lost due to securities fraud by more than 120,000 individual investors.
Enforcement actions were brought against 343 criminal defendants and almost
200 civil defendants.
The SEC attributes some of the rise in investment fraud to the Internet,
which allows scam artists to reach greater numbers of people, often anonymously.
The SEC Enforcement Director Robert Khuzam said that the anonymity of
the Internet makes prosecution of the fraudsters difficult. The SEC also
correlates the rise in investment fraud with the increase in the number
of investments made through third parties.
"As more and more people look to third parties to invest their money
through intermediaries and money managers and the like, the frequency
with which we might see these types of schemes ... is on the increase,"
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder also expressed concerns over the increases
in fraud and urged investors to be wary of investment offers, even from
acquaintances, colleagues, and friends, according to Reuters. He cited
examples of victims scammed by trusted community members, including one
that involved a Texas pastor.
"One man in Texas allegedly targeted his fellow parishioners, asking
them to invest with him and claiming that his success in foreign exchange
trading was 'a blessing from God,'" Holder said.