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The SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy (OIEA) urges investors to be on the lookout for scams related to the recent Hawaii wildfires.

Bad actors may use natural disasters, including the recent Hawaii wildfires, to lure victims into investment scams.  These frauds may directly target individuals receiving money from insurance companies or other sources.  They can take many forms.

  • Bad actors may direct you to make “investments” in companies supposedly involved in cleanup, repair, and recovery efforts. 
  • They may say your “investment” will not only make you money, but benefit victims of the disaster.
  • They may promote the stock of companies that supposedly will reap huge profits from recovery and cleanup efforts, and then sell their own shares of the stock at the inflated price.  This is called a “pump-and-dump” scam.

Fraudsters may attempt to reach individuals on a large scale through unsolicited emails, on social media, or by telephone.  They also may falsely claim to be affiliated with state and federal governments or large, well-known companies.

Be Skeptical and Ask Questions

Be skeptical if you are approached by someone touting an investment opportunity related to the Hawaii wildfires.  When considering any investment, one of the best ways to avoid investment fraud is to ask questions.

  • Ask the person if they are licensed and if the investment is registered with the SEC or with a state regulator.
  • Use Investor.gov’s free and easy search tool to check the background, including license and registration status, of anyone who tries to sell you an investment.

Remember that a promise of high guaranteed returns with little or no risk is a classic sign of an investment scam like a Ponzi scheme

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