Maine Securities Administrator Judith Shaw has released a list of the top five investment products or schemes likely to trap Maine investors in the new year and steps that can be taken to protect against investment fraud. Risks include:

• promissory notes
• Ponzi schemes
• real-estate investments
• cryptocurrency-related investment products
• social media and internet-based investment schemes

“It is important for investors to understand what they are investing in and who they are investing with,” Shaw said in a news release. “Don’t fall for promises of guaranteed high returns with little to no risk, or deals pitched with a false sense of urgency or limited availability,” she said. Investment offers that sound “too good to be true” often share similar characteristics; the most common sign of an investment scam is an offer of guaranteed high returns with no risk. All investments carry the risk that some — or all — of the invested funds could be lost.

Many of the threats facing investors involve private offerings, which are exempt from federal securities registration requirements and are not sold through public stock exchanges. Investors should always ask if the salesperson and the investment itself are properly licensed or registered. This information can be confirmed by the Maine Office of Securities. Working with a properly licensed investment professional affords investors certain legal protections. “Anyone offering to sell a security without a license is breaking the law and should be avoided,” according to Shaw.

Information about advisers, salespersons and investing is available at investors.maine.gov, by calling (877) 624-8551, or by writing to Maine Office of Securities, 121 State House Station, Augusta, 04333-0121.