Avoiding being hurt by a con artist is as easy as doing your homework — before you invest.

  • Contact your state or provincial securities regulator to see if the investment vehicle and the person selling it are registered. Your state or provincial securities regulator will also be able to tell you if the salesperson has a disciplinary history, that is, whether any civil, criminal or administrative proceedings have been brought against him or her. Contact information is available here.
  • Contact your local Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed against the venture’s promoters or principals.
  • Deal only with financial advisers, broker-dealers or financial institutions having a proven track record.
  • Ask for written information on the investment product and the business. Such information, including financial data on the company and the risks involved in the investment, is contained in a prospectus. Read it carefully.
  • Don’t take everything you hear or read at face value. Ask questions if you don’t understand, and do some sleuthing for yourself. If you need help in evaluating the investment, go to someone independent whom you can trust such as an attorney or an accountant.
  • Steer clear of investments touted with no downside or risk.

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