August 20, 2013
WASHINGTON—The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) issued a new Investor Alert called Marijuana Stock Scams to warn investors about potential related scams. Medical marijuana is legal in almost 20 states, and recreational use of the drug was recently legalized in two states. As a result, the cannabis business has been getting a lot of attention – including the attention of scammers. Like many investment scams, pitches for marijuana stocks may arrive in a variety of ways – from faxes to email or text message invitations, to webinars, infomercials, tweets or blog posts.
The con artists behind marijuana stock scams may try to entice investors with optimistic and potentially false and misleading information that in turn creates unwarranted demand for shares of small, thinly traded companies that often have little or no history of financial success. The scammers behind these "pump and dump" scams can then sell off their shares, leaving investors with worthless stock.
"Investors considering investing in a heavily touted, thinly traded company should question why a total stranger would tell them about a really great investment opportunity. In reality, there is likely no true opportunity. Investors should always find out whether the promoter is licensed using FINRA BrokerCheck, and check out the investment using the Securities and Exchange Commission's EDGAR database of company filings," said Gerri Walsh, FINRA's Senior Vice President for Investor Education.
One company highlighted in Marijuana Stock Scams was touted on the Internet through the use of sponsored links, investment profiles and spam email, including one promotional piece claiming the stock "could double its price SOON." Yet the company's balance sheet showed only losses, and the company stated elsewhere that it was only beginning to formulate a business plan.
Marijuana Stock Scams also includes smart tips to help investors spot and avoid these potential scams.
FINRA is the largest non-governmental regulator for all securities firms doing business in the United States. FINRA is dedicated to investor protection and market integrity through effective and efficient regulation and complementary compliance and technology-based services. FINRA touches virtually every aspect of the securities business – from registering and educating all industry participants to examining securities firms, writing and enforcing rules and the federal securities laws, informing and educating the investing public, providing trade reporting and other industry utilities, and administering the largest dispute resolution forum for investors and registered firms. For more information, please visit our website at www.finra.org.