Financial Fitness

Insurance Division Warns of Con Artists Looking to Profit from Fear and Uncertainty

April 2020 

Due to ongoing developments related to the current coronavirus (COVID-19) impact on financial markets, the Iowa Insurance Division is reminding Iowa investors to beware of con artists seeking to capitalize on fear and uncertainty.

“We know con artists are opportunistic and use current events to cloak their schemes with an air of immediacy and legitimacy. Never make an investment decision without understanding what you are investing in, who you are doing business with, where your money is going, how it will be used, and how you can get it back,” said Deputy Administrator for Securities Andrew Hartnett. “Always ask if the salesperson and the security are registered in Iowa.”

Iowans should be on the lookout for scam artists trying to use the market downturn and the coronavirus to scare investors into so-called safer or guaranteed investments.

“If you have concerns about your retirement accounts or investments, talk to your financial professional,” Hartnett said. “Avoid making decisions based on panic or fear.”

To help investors identify common signs of possible investment fraud, the Iowa Insurance Division has provided three questions to ask before making a new investment:

  • Is the investment being offered with a guaranteed high return with little or no risk? All investments carry risk that you may potentially lose some or all of your money.
  • Is there a sense of urgency or limited availability surrounding the investment? If the offer is legitimate, it will be there later. If someone offers you a “can’t miss” investment opportunity and puts you on the spot, don’t be afraid to walk away.
  • Is the person offering the investment, and the investment itself, properly licensed or registered? For the same reasons you wouldn’t go to an unlicensed doctor or dentist, you should avoid unregistered investment salespeople and their products.

“Make sure you have all the facts before you hand your money over to someone else to invest,” Hartnett said. “Iowans are encouraged to contact us if they have concerns about the investment professional or the product being offered.”

The Iowa Insurance Division can be reached at iid.iowa.gov or 877-955-1212.