FINRA is the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. FINRA is dedicated to investor protection and market integrity through effective and efficient regulation of the securities industry. FINRA is not part of the government. It is an independent, not-for-profit organization authorized by Congress to protect America’s investors by making sure the securities industry operates fairly and honestly.
FINRA issued an investor alert warning people about possible marijuana stock scams. Here are some choice quotes from FINRA’s Marijuana Stock Scam alert.
We are reissuing this alert to warn investors not only about the potential for fraud in this arena, but also to reiterate the risks of investing in thinly traded companies about which little is known. Regardless of industry sector, any so-called “hot” stock can burn your portfolio. Rather than getting swept away, take time before you invest to learn more about the company, its products or services and the people running it. . . .
Like many investment scams, pitches to invest in potentially fraudulent marijuana-related companies may arrive in a variety of ways—faxes, email or text message invitations to webinars, infomercials, tweets or blog posts. Regardless of how you first hear about them, the offers almost always contain hallmarks of “pump and dump” ploys. Specifically, fraudsters lure investors with aggressive, optimistic—and potentially false and misleading—statements or information designed to create unwarranted demand for shares of a small, thinly traded company with little or no history of financial success (the pump). Once share prices and volumes reach a peak, the cons behind the scam sell off their shares at a profit, leaving investors with worthless stock (the dump). . . .
To avoid potential marijuana-related stock scams: . . . .
Know where the stock trades. Most unsolicited spam recommendations involve stocks that do not trade on The NASDAQ Stock Market (NASDAQ OMX), the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE Euronext) or other registered national securities exchanges. Instead, these stocks may be quoted on an over-the-counter (OTC) quotation platform like the FINRA-operated Over-the-Counter Bulletin Board (OTCBB) and the platform operated by OTC Markets Group, Inc. . . .
Be wary of frequent changes to a company’s name or business focus. Name changes and the potential for manipulation often go hand in hand. One low-priced stock now claiming to be in the medical marijuana business has had four name changes in the past 10 years. Another company switched from the coffee business to focus “on the rapidly emerging medical marijuana industries.” . . .
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