COLUMBUS –It’s National Consumer Protection Week, which is a perfect time to take steps to help you, your family, and friends avoid scams.
Digital technology has made it easier than ever to exchange not only knowledge, but money as well. “Finfluencers” are readily available on various social media platforms to give financial advice about where to invest your money, and mobile payment apps make following through on payments nearly effortless. However, it is imperative that Ohioans perform their due diligence to make sure they are taking the right steps to avoid losing money.
While individuals sharing financial information and advice is not new, social media can shine the limelight on anyone who wants to share their experiences, but it does not guarantee that they have a formal education or credentials to back up their advice.
“Beware of celebrities, sports stars, or other self-proclaimed experts on Instagram and TikTok who push investments, cryptocurrency and other financial products whether online or in paid advertising,” suggested Dan Orzano, outreach and education manager for the Ohio Division of Securities. “Some of the finfluencers are getting paid by financial product providers to promote their products. Just because someone says it’s good doesn’t mean it’s right for you and your specific financial situation. Do your own research so you understand what you are investing in.”
Likewise, Peer-to-peer, or P2P payment systems, are incredibly convenient for making quick payments online. However, if money is sent to the wrong person, either in error or because you were victimized by a scammer posing as a friend or family member, your bank will likely be powerless to help you get those funds back.
“I tell people to treat money they send through P2P payment apps like it’s cash,” said Viktoria Jurkovic, consumer affairs manager at the Ohio Division of Financial Institutions. “If you send cash to the wrong person, you are at their mercy in getting it back.”
Tips to protect yourself
Avoid losing your hard-earned money by following these simple rules:
-Never give out your personal information or send money to someone, especially if you haven’t met in person.
-Don’t click on any links if you get an unexpected email or text message that asks you to send money. Log in to your P2P app to see if you have any requests pending. If there’s nothing there, the email or text is probably a scam.
-Be aware of scammers using social media and rouge websites to get you to invest in their alleged business or product.
-Check before you invest. Be sure the person trying to sell you an investment is properly licensed and the investment being sold is registered with either state or federal authorities.
Resources to use if you suspect fraud
-Banks, Credit Unions
-Contact the financial institution’s fraud department.
If the financial institution is Ohio-charted and unresponsive, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs at 1-866-278-0003 or submit a report online.
Call the Division of Securities’ Investor Protection Hotline at 877-683-7841 for guidance on any investment opportunity, or to find out if the person is licensed to sell investment products in Ohio. You can also submit an online complaint if you suspect you’ve been scammed.
Check the background of someone who is promoting an investment or claims to be a stockbroker, investment adviser or financial planner using FINRA’s BrokerCheck, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Action Lookup (SALI) or Investment Advisor Public Disclosure websites.
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Info from the Ohio Department of Commerce.
The Ohio Department of Commerce is the state’s chief regulatory agency, focused on promoting prosperity and protecting what matters most to Ohioans. We ensure businesses follow the laws that help them create jobs and keep Ohioans safe. To learn more about what we do, visit our website at com.ohio.gov.