The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), an umbrella group of securities regulators in the U.S. and Canada, say their enforcement departments are expecting an increase in investment frauds due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Scammers will be targeting retail investors, capitalizing on recent developments in the economy and preying on concerns about the regulated securities market,” said Joe Rotunda, director of enforcement for the Texas State Securities Board and vice-chair of NASAA’s enforcement section.
“Their products and tactics will track recent economic and social trends, promising lucrative returns to retail investors concerned about their investments and retirement plans. Retail investors must remain vigilant to protect themselves from these schemes,” Rotunda added.
In particular, NASAA warned investors to be skeptical of investments tied to the threat of Covid-19.
“Bad actors can be expected to develop schemes that falsely purport to raise capital for companies manufacturing surgical masks and gowns, producing ventilators and other medical equipment, distributing small-molecule drugs and other preventative pharmaceuticals, or manufacturing vaccines and miracle cures,” NASAA said.
The group also said that scammers will try to exploit concerns about market volatility to tout purportedly “safe” investments with “guaranteed returns.” This may include investments tied to gold, silver and other commodities.
NASAA is also expecting to see “get rich quick schemes” that promise fast, guaranteed returns targeting investors that may be facing financial distress.
“These schemes also target retirees and senior citizens, falsely claiming they can quickly and safely recoup any losses to their retirement portfolios,” NASAA said.
Many of the frauds are expected to be traditional schemes repackaged to take advantage of the current focus on Covid-19.
“While the financial, cultural and societal changes are fresh, scammers will begin perpetrating schemes that require little or no advance planning and minimal sophistication. Most will simply be old scams dressed in contemporary clothing,” said Alabama Securities Commission director, Joseph Borg.
In its alert, NASAA detailed common investment scams and provided guidance to investors on avoiding the sorts of schemes it anticipates seeing.