North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice
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Risky Business: Watch out for investment and business opportunity schemes

2/17/2009


By Attorney General Roy Cooper

You get a telephone call or an email touting a great investment that will earn tons of money, or read an ad or receive an invitation to a seminar that promises huge profits if you buy into a new business. These offers sound tempting, don’t they? Who wouldn’t want to get rich fast and win back their losses in the stock market, especially right now?
 
But beware of investment offers and business opportunities that guarantee you’ll make lots of money. In most cases, these schemes will wind up costing you money rather than helping you make any. 
 
For example, last year we cracked down on one investment scheme that convinced seniors to pay $1,995 for a living trust they didn’t need and for moving their entire life savings into long-term annuities, a poor investment choice for most seniors. 
 
We won refunds from another company that charged consumers thousands of dollars but did little to help them start an online business as promised. Other common business opportunity schemers claim you can earn hundreds of dollars a month guaranteed if you buy their vending machines or internet kiosks.
 
Here are some tips to help you avoid getting scammed when you’re trying to invest wisely:
 
  • Be suspicious of high earnings claims that sound too good to be true. 
 
  • Before you decide to put your money into a business, real estate deal or other investment, do your own, independent research on its value and risks.
 
  • Never agree to become an investor in a new business without checking it out thoroughly with our office and the Better Business Bureau.
 
  • Beware of “act now” sales pitches. If a salesperson tells you to act now or never, or uses phrases like “limited offer”, “risk free”, “tax-free offshore investments” or “special opportunity, but you must keep it secret,” don’t buy anything from them. 
 
  • Never make a quick decision about investment offers or changing insurance policies. Think it over carefully and consult with an independent advisor you trust, such as your lawyer or accountant.
 
  • Read all contracts and paperwork carefully, and don’t sign anything you don’t understand. 

What if you get talked into a new investment and think better of it later? Under North Carolina law, you may be able to cancel and get your money back. If you made the purchase at your home, or at a presentation at a hotel, restaurant or somewhere other than the company’s place of business, the law allows you three days to cancel the contract. 
 
To report a potential scam or file a complaint, contact my Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within North Carolina or download a complaint form at www.ncdoj.gov.
 
Attorney General Roy Cooper and his staff want to make sure North Carolina consumers get the most for their money. We’re here to be of service when you need us, but through consumer education efforts like these columns we hope to help North Carolinians avoid problems from the start.