Investment opportunities that claim to be low risk and high reward almost always are frauds. When researching investments, turn to unbiased sources, like:

Its important to have updated security software and practicebasic computer securityon any computer you use to access financial accounts.

Never ever invest based solely on what you read in an online newsletter, bulletin board posting, or blog especially if the investment involves a small company that isnt well-known. Its easy for a company or its promoters to make grandiose claims about new product developments, lucrative contracts, or the companys financial health. Before you invest, you must independently verify those claims. Use unbiased sources, such as theU.S. Securities and Exchange Commission(SEC), yourstate securities regulator, and securities industryself-regulatory organizations(including FINRA, Amex, and Nasdaq).

Many investment frauds, including online scams, involve unregistered securities so always investigate before you invest. Offers to sell securities must be registered with the SEC or be eligible for an exemption, otherwise the offering is illegal. To see whether an investment is registered, check the SECsEDGAR databaseand call yourstate securities regulatorfor more information about the company and the people promoting it.

Fraudsters falsely assure you that an investment is properly registered with the appropriate agency and then give you a phone number so you can verify that fact. Sometimes they give you the name of a real agency, and sometimes make one up. But even if the agency does exist, the contact information they provide invariably is false. Instead of speaking with a government official, youll reach the fraudsters or their colleagues, who will give high marks to the company, the promoter, or the transaction.

Many fraudsters are repeat offenders. When the SEC sues a person or an organization, the agency issues a litigation release. For litigation releases going back to 1995, simplyrun a searchfor the promoter, his or her company or newsletter, the company being touted, and its officers and directors. You also can check out the person or entity promoting the opportunity by using FINRA s freeBrokerCheckservice or by calling yourstate securities regulator.

Many small companies cannot meet the listing requirements of a national exchange. The securities of these companies trade instead in the over-the-counter (OTC) market and are quoted on OTC systems, like the OTC Bulletin Board or the Pink Sheets. Stocks that trade in the OTC market generally are among the most risky and most susceptible to manipulation.

Beware of promoters who pressure you to buy before you have a chance to think about and fully investigate an investment opportunity. Dont fall for the line that youll lose out on a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make big money if you dont act quickly.

Whenever someone offers you a hot stock tip, ask yourself a couple of questions: Why is this person giving me this tip? How might he or she benefit if I trade? The person touting the stock may well be an insider of the company or a paid promoter who stands to profit if you trade.

If you have problems with your online investment account or if you suspect an investment scam:

File a complaint with the SEC using the agencysOnline Complaint Center. Include as many details as possible: a summary of the problem and the names, addresses, telephone or fax numbers, and email addresses or websites of any person or firm involved.

For more information on investing wisely and avoiding costly mistakes, visit the SECsinvestor website.

If you believe your personal information has been misused:

file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at

visit the FTCsidentity theft websitefor steps you can take to minimize your risk of becoming a victim