Buyer beware

With the economy still showing signs of weakness, investment scams are running rampant as unscrupulous predators attempt to prey on those concerned about their investment portfolios.

“If someone is promising you high returns with no risk, it’s time to be very skeptical,” warns Ohio Securities Commissioner Debbie Dye Joyce. “Ask lots of questions, and get everything in writing.”

Here are the five most common scams.

* Promissory notes. Short-term debt instruments. Investors should stay away from notes that promise high returns — upwards of 12 percent — from little-known or unknown companies.

* “Callable” CDs. High-yield certificates of deposit that don’t mature for between 10 and 30 years, unless the bank — not the investor — “calls” or redeems them. Redeeming the CD early could result in a substantial loss — upwards of 25 percent of the principal.

* Internet investment pitches. Bottom line: Ignore anonymous financial advice disseminated through the Internet or chat rooms.

* Prime bank schemes. Often offered via the Internet, these scams dangle returns — often as high as 300 percent — through access to the investment portfolios of the world’s elite banks.

* Viatical settlements. Originated as a way to help the gravely ill pay their bills, these interests in the death benefits of terminally ill patients are always high-risk and often fraudulent. Source: Ohio Department of Commerce