Arizona declares cryptocurrency ‘top investor threat’

Also on the list is fraud offerings related to promissory notes, money scams offered online and financial schemes connected to self-directed IRAs.

Updated: January 12, 2022 - 11:29pm

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Investors should be cautious when investing in cryptocurrency and other digital assets, according to a state agency.

The Arizona Corporation Commission released its “Top Investor Threats of 2022” list on Jan. 10, highlighting online pitches digital assets promising risk-free profits.

“The Corporation Commission’s Securities Division informs us that investments related to cryptocurrencies and digital assets is our top investor threat in Arizona,” said Chairwoman Lea Márquez-Peterson. “Stories of ‘crypto millionaires’ enticed many investors to delve into cryptocurrencies or crypto-related investments last year, and with that, many stories of those who bet big and lost big began appearing, and we anticipate they will continue to appear in 2022.”

Also on the list is fraud offerings related to promissory notes, money scams offered online and financial schemes connected to self-directed Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs).

The list is compiled using a survey of securities regulators. It’s conducted by the North American Securities Administrators Association.

The commonality with the top threats, the ACC said, is that they’re all privately offered. This shields the scams from many state and federal disclosure requirements.

“Unregistered private offerings are generally considered to be high-risk investments and do not have the same investor protection requirements as those sold through public markets,” the ACC release said.

On Sept. 1, 2021, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission issued an “investor alert” regarding an uptick in cryptocurrency offerings. The announcement came on the same day the SEC announced charges against Satish Kumbhani and his company BitConnect. The firm allegedly defrauded investors out of $2 billion through unregistered investments into a program involving digital assets.

ACC recommends a philosophy of “if it’s too good to be true, then it likely is,” when considering investing in any type of digital asset and watching out for red flags such as fake client reviews or “payment of safe, lucrative, guaranteed returns over relatively short terms.”