Investment fraud in the age of social media


Fraudsters are capitalizing on the growing popularity of
social media to come up with ever more inventive scams

Isabelle Lord | Desjardins

You've worked hard all these years, and look forward to enjoying a well-deserved retirement. But there are lots of scam artists out there who would be only too happy to take your hard-earned money.

Promoters of fake investment offers have long relied on word-of-mouth to trick unsuspecting victims without much effort on their part. And when it's a family member or friend telling us about it, we automatically assume everything is above board.

Fraudsters are capitalizing on the growing popularity of social media to come up with ever more inventive scams, trying to dupe even more investors. Just as with word-of-mouth, scammers know that offers shared by someone we know seem legit.

How to recognize fraud

Any investment offer should be carefully evaluated. Here are 3 red flags to watch out for.

1.    High, risk-free returns

In reality, return and risk go together. The higher the return, the higher the risk. 

2.    A sense of urgency

The scam artist pressures you to make a decision quickly, saying that if you don't, you'll lose out. But you need that time to do your homework and think critically.

3.    The disclosure of privileged information

It's illegal to profit from proprietary information (i.e., not publicly available). So be wary of "advisors" who tell you that they know from a reliable source that an investment is about to go up in value. And why would a complete stranger share that information with you, anyway?

How to protect yourself

Not just anyone can sell you financial advice and products--they have to be licensed. Before investing, make sure you're dealing with a registered professional licensed to practice in Ontario or Quebec:

The Ontario Securities Commission

The Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) in Quebec

In the virtual world--just like in the real world--if it sounds too good to be true, that's usually because it is.

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