Scammers often use relationships to lure victims
Be cautious with investments you hear about from friends, social groups
Next time you hear about an investment from a friend or even a church group, be extra cautious because scam artists often use those relationships to lure in their victims.
"We thought, wow, what an opportunity to get in on the ground floor with this company," said fraud victim Becky Gilbert.
The company Gilbert heard about from a friend was GNX-PERTS, which developed new products.
Gilbert and her husband were very interested in one specific product: An additive that allows plastic or paint to glow in the dark.
"It didn't seem ordinary glow in the dark," she said. "It was very vibrant glow in the dark, it was lasts a long time, it was put into anything from car paint, to paint for the roads, the striping for the road."
the Gilberts worked in the trucking business and thought the investment was solid.
"Everybody is talking about safety in the transportation industry so we were like, wow, you know this opportunity, because we know this product would get sold," she explained.
The company made a convincing pitch.
"They brought some of the product and PowerPoint presentation to show us," Gilbert said. "They told us that the opportunity would be to purchase stock at $25,000 per share."
The Gilberts bought two shares totaling $50,000. 90 days after investing, their optimism quickly turned to disbelief, when they got a call from postal inspectors.
Gilbert said, "Very foolish at first to think "how could this possibly happen?" We run a business, college educated people, how could this happen to us?"
More than 50 people were victims with losses totaling $4 million. Inspectors say the product was real, but the company was only interested in making as much money as possible.
"So, they had no conscience as far as I can view it because they were really targeting anyone and everyone in order to get money out of them," said US Postal Inspector Laura Mahlke.
Inspectors say be skeptical of investment opportunities you hear about through friends or social groups.
"Still do your own checking. What I learned in this case, was that this person may believe it is legitimate and they may not realize they are part of the scheme trying to lure you in," said Mahlke. "So do your own independent checking of someone trying to sell you investments, stock shares."
The Gilberts never got any of their money back and feel they now can not trust anyone.
"The anger I felt to have been stolen from, if you've ever been stolen from and just have something you've worked so hard be taken from you. lied to, a lot of anger, distrust of people in general," said Gilbert.
Three suspects were indicted in this case. One suspect was arrested and two remain fugitives. The main suspect was ordered to serve 4 years of prison time and pay over $4 million in restitution.
Copyright 2013 by News4Jax.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.