Securities Fraud
How to Avoid the Cons

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Securities Fraud

February 23, 2000

"Securities fraud." To many people the term conjures up images of the late 1980s when then-United States Attorney Rudolph Guiliani held press conferences announcing the arrests of Dennis Levine, Ivan Boesky, and Michael Milken. In the 1987 film Wall Street, Gordon Gekko personified the Levines, Boeskys, and Milkens, saying, "I'm talking about liquid. Rich enough to have your own jet. Rich enough not to waste time. Fifty, a hundred million dollars, buddy. A player. Or nothing. If something's worth doing, it's worth doing for money." And, evidently, worth doing even if it breaks the law.

These images create the perception that securities fraud is limited to million-dollar transactions and only involves people who drive Ferraris and belong to exclusive country clubs. The reality is that since the Crash of 1929, securities fraud has affected the average investor more and more. Retirees, single parents, and people saving for their children's educations lose their life savings to fly-by-night con men -- Gordon Gekkos in cheap suits.

What is securities fraud? In most cases, it's nothing more than stealing. Sure, the securities laws contain a more technical definition. But when investors are enticed to part with their money based on untrue statements, it's securities fraud -- and it's illegal. So, how does a Fool avoid becoming a victim of securities fraud?

We at The Motley Fool believe that the main factor that permits securities fraud is ignorance. In this series, we're going to combat this ignorance with education. We'll tell you about the types of scams that are out there and how to recognize them. We'll tell you some real-life tales about average investors getting scammed. Most importantly, we'll offer some very easy tips that will help you avoid being scammed. And, if you've been scammed, don't be embarrassed: We'll tell you who you should contact. Finally, if you need more information on scams or want to discuss your situation with other community members, please join the community on our Financial Scams message board.

So, put on your bells and let's learn how to be "F"oolish, not "f"oolish, with your money. Fool on!

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