Securities regulators in Pennsylvania and other states are warning investors to keep an eye out for “mutations of old schemes and themes” as con artists seek to profit from new federal financial reform legislation. Pennsylvania’s securities regulators joined with other securities department leaders in other states, part of the North American Securities Administrators Association, to issue their annual list of “Top 10 Investor Traps” which are: Sale of exchange-traded funds to parties who are least able to withstand the risks involved. Bogus foreign exchange trading schemes masquerading as bona fide investments. Gold and precious metals deals that trap investors with high redemption costs or, worse, where investments are not backed by precious metal holdings. Green schemes where scammers exploit headlines claiming secret processes to clean-up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill or produce endless “clean” energy. Life settlement investments sold by unlicensed and unscrupulous operators who claim to be buying up beneficiary rights to life insurance policies which, in turn, are promised to yield substantial returns. Oil and gas schemes play off current interest in Pennsylvania’s natural gas fields in the state’s Marcellus Shale formation. Affinity fraud abuses an investor’s membership or association with an identifiable group to convince or create trust in questionable or shaky investments. Undisclosed conflicts of interest on the part of brokers or salespeople can result in individuals being steered to investments that do not represent their best interests. Private or special deals, while legal, can be more easily abused by salespeople because they are not subject to the same review as general securities offerings. “Off the books” deals that might be offered by salespeople separate and apart from a brokerage’s regular offerings may or may not be legal but they definitely do not come with the oversight and support of a regular brokerage house.

Tweet your comments to Security Magazine at