The mission of the Oklahoma Securities Commission is investor protection. The commission's duties include enforcing the state's anti-fraud laws that protect investors from investment swindles; a job its members take seriously.

Usually, fraud investigations are the result of investor complaints. Complaints range from misrepresentation of facts about an investment to price manipulation or outright theft of funds.

Another common complaint centers on unregistered securities and securities brokers, as the commission requires registration of all in the state for the public's protection.

Unfortunately, some 160 Oklahomans recently found out the hard way what happens when you do business with unregistered investment sellers.

Residents of Shawnee and Meeker lost nearly $9 million to the Hickman Agency, which was not selling investments, but operating a Ponzi scheme, where an investor's money is used to pay off earlier investors instead of being invested. In other words, it was robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Another recent fraud case occurred in Crescent, where a registered agent operated a phony trading scam, ultimately cheating more than 250 Oklahomans out of $10 million.

In both cases, the commission stepped in to enforce the law.

If you think you have been scammed or suspect a securities seller is doing business illegally, let the Oklahoma Department of Securities know. You can make a complaint or inquiry by phone, in writing or via e-mail. You can even download a complaint form from the Department's Web site at www.securities.state.ok.us.

Once the Department investigates a complaint and finds it has merit, it can issue subpoenas, take testimony, hold hearings, take administrative action, file civil action in court or make referrals to criminal enforcement agencies.

One way the commission tries to protect investors is through education.

The WISE (Winning through Investment Strategies and Education) project is a partnership between the commission and the University of Oklahoma Outreach and College of Continuing Education.

This includes a summer institute for high school teachers, stock market camps for youth and adults and financial literacy workshops for seniors and retirees, an informative Web site, television documentaries, as well as this series of newspaper articles.

Listen to the WISE Investment Minute weekdays on KOMA FM/KOKC AM and KGOU FM or visit WISE at www.wiseok.org.

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