By Jessica Looman, Minnesota Commerce Commissioner

At the Minnesota Commerce Department, we regulate more than 20 industries. From insurance to energy to banks and credit unions, we work to protect consumers and ensure a fair marketplace for all. We even have a Weights & Measures Division that inspects commercial weighing and measuring devices – that’s why you see our stickers on gas pumps across the state.

As the state’s consumer protection agency, the Commerce Department is also committed to empowering Minnesotans to protect themselves and their families against financial fraud.

Fraud takes many forms – from classic Ponzi schemes with phantom investments promising “guaranteed” profits to fake sweepstakes and lottery scams. It can even involve a family member, friend or caregiver who abuses their trust and exploits a person’s vulnerability to steal from them. The common denominator among all these predatory practices is that they aim to take people’s savings.

It doesn’t matter if it’s five dollars or one million dollars, it’s your hard-earned money. But once the money is gone, it is gone. The Commerce Department works on the front end of this issue with education and empowerment while also working on the back end with civil enforcement and criminal investigations by our Commerce Fraud Bureau.

The good news is that each of us has the power to stop fraud before it starts.

Minnesotans need to know how to identify the red flags of fraud and scam which signal that theirs or a loved one’s savings and financial well-being may be in danger. Here are very basic but essential tips:

Don’t be a courtesy victim.

Con artists don’t hesitate to exploit your good manners. Save your politeness for friends and family members, not strangers looking for a quick buck.

Trust, but verify.

Say “no” to anyone who presses you to make a quick decision. Take time to research the salesperson, business and investment opportunity. You can check the status of an individual’s investment license at BrokerCheck or if an investment is registered with the Commerce Department by calling 651-539-1638.

Stay in control.

Be wary of anyone who suggests investing your money in something you don’t understand, or who urges you to leave everything in their hands.  Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Don’t judge a book by its cover.

Successful con artists sound and look extremely professional and can make even the riskiest investment deal sound safe. Don’t be fooled by the sound of their voice on the phone because it has no bearing on the soundness of the investment opportunity.

Don’t make decisions out of fear.

Fear can cloud your good judgment and cause rushed decisions. An investment that is right for you will make sense because you understand it and feel comfortable with the risk involved.

Hang up on fraud.

The phone is still the weapon of choice for most fraudsters, though email and social media are catching up. When you get a call (or message) from someone you don’t know who is trying to either pressure or sweet-talk you out of your money, your response should be simple : Hang up on fraud!

Report fraud. 

Don’t let embarrassment or fear keep you from reporting fraud or theft. Every day you delay reporting is another day the con artist is spending your money and finding new victims.  Contact local law enforcement or feel free to contact our Consumer Services Center at 651-539-1600 or 800-657-3602 (Greater Minnesota) or by email at

Last fall, the Commerce Department launched our Hang Up on Fraud! campaign, featuring a fraud prevention toolkit and a presentation available at no cost from the Department.  Although the primary audience is older Minnesotans and their family members, the fraud prevention information will help anyone of any age. I invite you to go to the Commerce website to order or download the toolkit for you or your loved ones.

Jessica Looman, Minnesota Commerce Commissioner