Report: Victims of Gulf of Mexico-related scams could be pushed into tenuous financial position

Beware oil-slick criminals As with many recent events that have garnered a lot of news coverage, criminal opportunists have taken advantage of the publicity surrounding the Gulf of Mexico oil spill to trick unsuspecting consumers out of their money, according to Consumer Reports.

The primary way in which the scam artists operate is by masquerading as companies participating in the cleanup and soliciting investment under false pretenses, the consumer advocacy group says. They warn that promises of rapid growth, revolutionary new technology, and fat government contracts should be viewed as red flags for those thinking about investing.

Consumer Reports cites a joint press release from industry group FINRA and the Securities and Exchange Commission as saying that "while some of the companies touting their role in the cleanup may be legitimate, others could be bogus operations that are only looking to clean out unsuspecting investors."

Consumers already strapped for cash and in need of debt counseling could be pushed over the edge into bankruptcy from losses to these scams, experts say.