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Fraudsters have found that one of the best ways to perpetuate investment
fraud is to catch you online. Although the Internet has made investing
easier in a lot of ways, the lack of rules and regulations online mean
that you need to be especially careful.
Some investment schemes, such as the Ponzi scheme or the "pump and
dump" scheme, appear online as often as they appear offline. However,
investors should be especially cautious regarding:
Online newsletters. While some online newsletters provide valuable information for investors,
other newsletters are actually paid to promote certain stocks or carry
advertisements for brokerage firms. Often, this means you're receiving
biased or outright false information from a seemingly legitimate newsletter.
This is not an illegal practice as long as the newsletter discloses that
it is a paid advertisement, but you can be assured that it's buried
in the "fine print."
Online forums or discussion boards. While these forums can help investors communicate, fraudsters can also
use these boards to perpetuate a scam by creating fake accounts touting
a certain investment. Some firms even pay promoters to play the part of
an unbiased observer. A long thread of positive comments gives the appearance
that many people have had success with an investment, even though these
comments have actually been left by promoters, large corporations, or
fraudsters under the guise of an "average Joe."
Spam E-Mail. You are probably familiar with the "Nigerian scam" style e-mails,
but also be on the lookout for e-mails that seem to legitimately recommend
an investment or firm. Fraudsters have been known to use bulk e-mail to
either promote a fraudulent investment opportunity or to falsely "talk
up" a company. These messages appear to be personalized to you or
may mimic the logo or style of a legitimate company.
The good news is that you can avoid fraud by taking a few smart steps to
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