Beware of digital currency, real estate and high-yield scams: Texas regulator

The Texas securities regulator has cautioned the public to beware of a rising group of scammers who are taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to target their victims. In a comprehensive 78-page report, the Texas State Securities Board went into detail about the new wave of scams, most of which are promising a safe hedge against the mayhem that the Coronavirus has brought about.

Dubbed the ‘Texas Investor Guide’, the report delved into the various types of scams that are now targeting Texans. One of the main ones is digital currency scams, with the regulator describing these currencies as “extraordinarily volatile—meaning risky—and almost impossible for a layperson to understand.”

The report went on, “Promoters of these investments look to take advantage of people who are swayed by the idea of virtual currencies as a quick path to wealth. Even seniors and retirees, who traditionally prioritize security over speculation, are being persuaded to invest in initial coin offerings and cryptocurrency mining pools.”

To steer clear of digital currency scams, the watchdog advised Texans to only invest in companies they understand, those with physical locations they can identify and whose principals they can point out. It is critical that these companies be licensed by the state regulator. “The state of Texas’ rigorous registration requirements applies equally to traditional securities and emerging securities, including products tied to cryptocurrencies,” it added.

Digital currency scams have continued to rise in popularity in Texas and have “become a staple of the State Securities Board’s enforcement work.” In 2019, of all the enforcement actions by the TSSB’s Enforcement Division, 30% involved digital currencies. Some of the tactics the fraudsters used include emphasizing guaranteed profits while withholding some basic facts as well as manipulating videos and using fake photos to convey a successful operation.

Other types of scams the regulator warned about include those offering promissory notes; those fundraising through private placement offerings; speculative oil and gas offerings; and investments in real estate. The citizens must also beware of people who dispense financial advice on media platforms, those not licensed in Texas and those that target the elderly.

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