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Sandy spawns charity scams in Indiana

Statement as issued Thursday by the Indiana Secretary of State:

INDIANAPOLIS (Nov. 1, 2012) – Because Hoosiers are so generous and caring when other people are in need, Secretary of State Connie Lawson is warning investors to beware of opportunistic investment schemes related to Hurricane Sandy.

“Unfortunately, we know from experience that disasters bring out the worst in people, especially those seeking to profit from the misfortunes of others. Potential investors should be very cautious if approached with unsolicited Sandy-related investment offers,” said Secretary Lawson.

In particular, Secretary Lawson noted that cold-calling telephone salespeople, advertisements, and Internet postings that promote investment pools or bonds to help storm victims, or tout water-removal or purification technologies, electricity-generating devices and distressed real estate remediation programs should be a red flag for investors.

Hoosiers should also be aware of the rush of solicitations that follow a highly publicized natural disaster or other crises. “There will be fraudulent charity solicitations,” Secretary Lawson said. “Some will be looking for your money; some will be attempting to steal your credit card information for identity theft. As with any charitable contribution, people wanting to help with relief efforts following Sandy should send contributions to only those charities with an established track record such as the Red Cross.”

Securities Commissioner Chris Naylor warned that fake victims may attempt to use social media to dupe well-intentioned donors. “Do not donate to unknown individuals that purport to need aid that post on Facebook, Craigslist, Twitter or other social media sites. These are likely to be fraudsters, who may not have even been a resident of the United States much less a victim of the storm,” Commissioner Naylor said.

Recalling that many con artists attempted to exploit investors in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, investors are urged to:

Hang up on aggressive cold callers promoting hurricane-related investments and delete unsolicited e-mail or Internet messages discussing small companies with new hurricane-related technologies or products.

Use common sense. Pie-in-the-sky promises often signal investment fraud.

Contact the Secretary of State’s office to check that both the seller and investment are licensed and registered. If not, they may be operating illegally. The Secretary of State’s office can be reached at 317-232-6681.

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