FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 13, 2010
Online public education initiative will use national grant to raise awareness of investment fraud perpetrated online
INDIANAPOLIS – Investment fraud perpetrated online is growing more and more common. To help educate and protect Hoosiers, Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita’s Indiana Investment Watch program is launching an online public education initiative next week that will target those who may be most susceptible to falling victim.
“Driven by actual case examples and real threats to Hoosiers, we are going to proactively fight fire with fire by inserting our educational message about safe investing into the spaces where fraudsters potentially solicit victims,” Secretary Rokita said. “As technology continues to advance, fraudsters are adopting more unconventional approaches to soliciting victims, and the Internet provides them with a wide-open hunting range.”
Funded through a grant from the Investor Protection Trust, Indiana Investment Watch has created online advertisements, websites and videos to illustrate how four fictional companies would promote investment opportunities. The content is designed to show four common types of fraud found online: Ponzi schemes, online trading fraud, offshore and foreign currency investments and oil and gas schemes. The ads highlight common techniques used by fraudsters and will appear on newspaper and financial-related websites as well as when Hoosiers are online searching for investing opportunities and related terms.
Anyone clicking on the ads or websites will receive a message from Indiana Securities Commissioner Chris Naylor explaining that the investment is an example of fraud. From there, they will be redirected to the Indiana Investment Watch website where they can learn in more detail how to avoid falling victim to fraud and read about real cases in Indiana and across the nation.
“Through the design of this program, our objective is to reach people before they fall victim to fraud” Commissioner Naylor said. “We want everyone to know what steps to take to avoid investment fraud online. Most importantly, we want Hoosiers to contact our office if they feel they’ve been, or could become, a victim in a scam like these.”
Earlier this year, the Indiana Securities Division worked with Johnson County prosecutor Brad Cooper to obtain a criminal conviction of an Indiana woman who solicited victims using the website Craig’s List. In addition to asking people to invest money in her fake company, Wanda Robertson also asked for their personal information. She later used this information to apply for loans and credit cards. Following the investigation by the Indiana State Police with assistance from the Prosecution Assistance Unit, Robertson plead guilty to three Class C felony violations of the Indiana Securities Act and was sentenced to four years in prison, to be followed by four years of probation.
“The ads, websites and videos all incorporate techniques fraudsters commonly use to solicit victims,” Secretary Rokita said. “Promises of guaranteed returns with no risk, exaggerated returns on investment and claims of insider information – these are all tactics my office has seen in our investigations of investment fraud.”
The entire project has been designed in such a way that it can be used by other state securities regulators to educate and protect constituents. Based on results here in Indiana, the Indiana Investment Watch staff will work with the Investor Protection Trust to assist other states in implementing the program.
“Online investment scammers are just a click away on your computer at home or at work,” said Don Blandin, president and CEO of the Investor Protection Trust. “These high-tech con artists may not stick a gun in your face, but they can rob you just the same. This next phase of the Indiana Investment Watch program will help Hoosier investors learn to recognize Internet investment fraud schemes before it’s too late.”
To view the ads, websites and videos, and to learn more about avoiding investment fraud perpetrated online, please visit http://www.in.gov/sos/securities/3724.htm.
About Indiana Investment Watch
Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita created the Indiana Investment Watch program to increase financial literacy in Hoosiers and to educate them about various types of securities and mortgage loan broker fraud. The program is not funded by taxpayer dollars, but rather by the money collected from settlements in securities fraud cases.
For more information, please visit http://www.indianainvestmentwatch.com/. If you feel you have been the victim of investment fraud, please call the Secretary of State’s Securities Division at 1-800-223-8791.
About the Investor Protection Trust
The “Indiana Internet Fraud Campaign” is funded by a grant from the Investor Protection Trust (IPT). The IPT is a nonprofit organization devoted to investor education. Since 1993 the IPT has worked with the States to provide the independent, objective investor education needed by all Americans to make informed investment decisions. http://www.investorprotection.org/.
Media Contact: Jim Gavin, (317) 233-8655 or firstname.lastname@example.org