Last year the Indiana legislature passed the no texting while driving law, which banned drivers from writing and reading texts or emails while driving. At the time the law was heralded by its proponents as sending a strong message to the public about the dangers of texting and driving.

With the adoption of the no texting and emailing law Indiana joined thirty nine other states in banning this practice while driving. However, even as the law was being debated and passed it already had its detractors. These detractors didn’t complain that the law shouldn’t exist, but instead said that while its intention was good, it was not drafted well to prevent all distracted driving caused by handheld devices, nor would it be easy to enforce.

The law, as ultimately passed, has been codified at Indiana Code 9-21-8-59 , and states as follows:

(a) A person may not use a telecommunication device to:
(1) type a text message or an electronic mail message;
(2) transmit a text message or an electronic mail message; or
(3) read a text message or an electronic mail message;
while operating a moving motor vehicle unless the device is used in conjunction with hands free or voice operated technology, or unless the device is used to call 911 to report a bona fide emergency.
(b) A police office may not confiscate a telecommunications device for the purpose of determining compliance with this section or confiscate a telecommunications device and retain it as evidence pending trial for a violation of this section.

The complaints that were made about the law, as written, included:

• Loopholes in prohibited conduct, including that while typing and reading of texts and emails were prohibited, talking on a cell phone, dialing numbers, and playing games and surfing the Internet on a smart phone were not.

• Detection by law enforcement would be difficult: How can a police officer know that the person is texting or emailing, versus looking at their phone’s GPS for example to have reasonable suspicion to pull them over?

• Enforcement by officers would be difficult: Once someone is stopped for texting and driving, how can an officer prove that is what they were doing? It really comes down to whether the person admits it or not, since they can say they were just doing something not prohibited and there is no way to rebut that claim since police are forbidden from confiscating the phone to see what had just been done on it.

The texting law went into effect here in the state in July 2011. That means we are coming up on the year anniversary of its effective date, so it’s a good time to check in with law enforcement officers to see how well the law is working, and how enforcement is going. Unfortunately, several newspapers and other news agencies throughout Indiana have reported that the concerns about the drafting of this law were valid. In fact, Indiana law enforcement officers have found the law is toothless because of the huge exceptions and loopholes, as well as finding it difficult to enforce.

Because of these problems it has been reported that there have been few texting tickets handed out across the state. For instance, the Indianapolis police department has handed out only seven such tickets since the law’s inception, while the Indiana State Police have only handed out 125 total, with an additional 114 warnings. Further, in the first half of 2012 Carmel officers issued 10 tickets, Noblesville one, and Fishers, zero.

Although the law may have made some Indiana citizens think twice about texting and driving, which is a good thing, it obviously isn’t effective enough from a deterrent standpoint for many who wantonly text and drive. This is a safety problem for the state of Indiana, and should be rectified with the legislature as soon as possible. Law enforcement officers are calling for a broader ban on handheld devices while driving to help make the roads of Indiana safer for everyone, and enforcement easier for them. Their advice is sound, and should be heeded.

Those who use the social networking site LinkedIn.com should be alert to investment fraud on the site. A possible multi-billion dollar investment scam has surfaced which should make users cautious before going after any too-good-to-be-true online offer. Regulators say LinkedIn has become another online platform for promoting bogus investments.

Mario Massillamany-Attorney

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed an enforcement actions in January against Anthony Fields, an Illinois-based investment adviser, alleged to have made fraudulent offers in excess of $500 billion in false securities through different social media networks.

“Fraudsters are quick to adapt to new technologies to exploit them for unlawful purposes. Social media is no exception, and today’s enforcement action reflects our determination to pursue fraudulent activity on new and evolving platforms” said Robert Kaplain, co-chief of the asset management unit of the SEC’s enforcement division – Source.

Fields is accused of using false and misleading information in SEC filings when he represented himself as a broker-dealer (even though he wasn’t registered with the SEC) and failed to keep mandatory records.

The case exemplifies the effort in Washington to crack down on fraudulent investment schemes.  The SEC’s case is centered around Field’s use of the website LinkedIn. He has allegedly posted fake “bank guarantees” and “medium-term notes” supposedly tied to J P Morgan Chase, UBS and other large banks – Source.

More than 135 million professionals around the world are on LinkedIn.com. It is a website predominately used to highlight the skills, talents and professional experiences of its users. It functions as an online resume, with many working, professional, career-driven and/or job-searching persons using it for present and future employment efforts.

[Source: getoutofdebt.org]

Mario Massillamany

Mario Massillamany, Attorney

Popular social media sites on the Internet such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Linked-In and similar online networks have become principal sources for finding and sharing information, and this is true for investors as well. Such online resources can help investors research stocks, check the background of financial advisors and brokers, get pertinent up-to-date news, guide investment strategy or just talk with other investors and advisors.

Unfortunately, these same resources have also become a useful tool for investment fraud, and such fraudsters have become increasingly clever at looking like a legitimate investment presence with their websites, email and other communications. Following are some of the ways in which they operate.

Unsolicited offers — check that chat!
Social media sites, including chat rooms and bulletin boards, are prime places for investment fraud criminals to find victims. If you see a tweet mentioning you, or receive a direct message or email from an unsolicited source about an investment opportunity, be very wary. Among other things, modern electronic technology allows “spammers” to send millions of personalized emails about “can’t miss” investments and other opportunities. You can report such suspicious activity to the SEC Complaint Center.

Common ‘Red Flags’
There are several common “red flags” that should alert you to likely investment fraud on the Internet.

  • If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Compare the “incredible” promised returns with those of well-known stock indexes. If promised returns are significantly more, you’re looking at high-risk proposition if not actual fraud.
  • “Guaranteed” returns promised. Nothing that produces any significant return is guaranteed. Most healthy returns are quite far from guaranteed. Don’t believe it.
  • Pressure to act right now, lest this golden moment pass you by. Always take the time to check out these offers. Be especially suspicious of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities based on special “inside” information.

Affinity fraud
Don’t make an investment based solely on the advice of a member of an online group or chat room you belong to. Investment scams love to prey upon members of such groups, seeking credibility from the group and the informal communications among its members. Even if the recommendation is from someone you know, that person may have been fooled about the fraudulent “hot tip” or investment scheme he or she is unknowingly promoting.

Give thought to privacy and security settings
It’s great to have a way for old friends and relatives and classmates to find you on the web, but be mindful of how the information you provide could be accessed by those who are not your friends but fraudsters. Make sure you know how any privacy or security settings work in this regard.

Ask questions and check everything
There is no substitute for having a skeptical eye and researching the truth of every statement made in an online offer as well as checking the background of the promoter. Do not take the word of the promoter. Some of the sources that can help with this are:

See the SEC’s website at www.investor.gov for its publication, “Ask Questions,” about the information you should have before making an investment.

What are some common Internet investment scams?

Fraudsters are constantly changing their approach to investment scams using social media and the Internet. Here are some common ones.

‘Pump and Dump’ market manipulation
“Pump and Dump” schemes involve touting a company’s stock through false and misleading statements on bulletin boards and websites urging readers to buy or sell a stock quickly before the price goes down. Often inside information is cited, or an infallible method of stock selection. These statements may come from company insiders or paid promoters who stand to gain as their shares are “pumped” up by a buying frenzy they create. Once they sell or “dump” their shares and stop hyping the stock, the price goes down, costing the investors money.

Fraudulent information sites and newsletters
Sometimes fraud looks quite respectable. And there are legitimate websites and web-based newsletters that provide investment information and advice. Also some companies pay newsletters to tout specific stocks and this is legal as long as the newsletters disclose who is paying them, how much they are paying, and by what means.

However, fraudsters often lie about such information and may claim to be independent, unbiased purveyors of investment information while standing to profit handsomely from convincing others to buy certain stocks. Often this involves penny stocks.

To make matters worse, some of these newsletters may be advertised on legitimate websites, including the online financial pages of news organizations. To help discern what is legitimate, go to the SEC’s tips for checking out newsletters.

High Yield Investment Programs
High-yield investment programs (HYIPs) are unregistered investments usually run by unlicensed individuals that are often frauds. They promise superior returns at little or no risk to the investor. A HYIP website might promise annual, monthly, weekly or even daily returns of 30 or 40 percent or more. Some call themselves “prime bank” programs.

Internet-based offerings
An offering fraud is a security of some kind that’s offered to the public where the terms are materially misrepresented, especially regarding the likelihood of a return. Some offerings are not fraudulent per se, but fail to comply with the applicable registration provisions of the federal securities laws. However, some offerings are also exempt from this provision. It’s always best to determine if such offerings are registered with the SEC or a state, or is otherwise exempt.

Where to find help
If you have a concern or question about possible Internet fraud, contact the SEC, FINRA, or your state securities regulator.

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
Office of Investor Education and Advocacy
100 F Street, NE
Washington, DC 20549-0213
Telephone: (800) 732-0330
Fax: (202) 772-9295

Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)
FINRA Complaints and Tips
9509 Key West Avenue
Rockville, MD 20850
Telephone: (301) 590-6500
Fax: (866) 397-3290

North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA)
750 First Street, NE
Suite 1140
Washington, DC 20002
Telephone: (202) 737-0900
Fax: (202) 783-3571
[Source: U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Investor.gov]