Still, with more than 800 market manipulation cases investigated by the SEC last year alone, pump-and-dumps remain among the most common investor complaints. That's troubling to those scammed by Belfort more than two decades ago.
Bob Shearin lost more than $100,000 at the hands of Stratton Oakmont.
"That firm seeded a lot of scammers," Shearin tells "American Greed." "The cockroaches left Stratton Oakmont and just filtered out throughout the industry, continuing to do harm."
Tom Pokorny, who lost $800,000 and believes the scam also cost him his marriage, says the Hollywood treatment given to Belfort—and the fact that he spent just 22 months in prison—sends the wrong message to would be scammers.
"I think he should have been in jail longer," Pokorny tells "American Greed." "I mean, two years for wrecking thousands of people's lives? He went away for two years, that's it."
Experts generally urge investors to avoid microcap stocks because of the potential for fraud. But if you're still interested in taking the plunge, the SEC offers an investor's guide.
"Information is the investor's best tool when it comes to investing wisely," the guide begins. The trouble is that by their nature, microcap companies are required to report far less information about their operations than larger companies are. That makes it all the more important to monitor the information the small companies do provide.
All but the smallest public companies must file at least some reports with the SEC, and you can search the filings in the agency's EDGAR database. One of the most obvious red flags is when a company fails to file its SEC reports on time. If the company's ticker symbol suddenly shows up with a fifth letter—"E"—at the end, that's an indication the company has been cited for late filings. If the issue continues, the ticker symbol could vanish entirely and the stock could be halted, leaving you with a potentially worthless investment.
Another place to check is the Over the Counter Bulletin Board or OTCBB, one of the main sources of price information on microcap stocks. Operated by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the Bulletin Board also maintains a list—updated daily—of companies that have been added and deleted from the Bulletin Board, and the reasons why.
Remember, when it comes to stocks or any other investment, the higher the return, the greater the risk.
"The Wolf of Wall Street" may have been an entertaining movie, but Belfort's real-life victims are still dealing with the consequences. And 20 years later, there are plenty of would-be wolves waiting to pounce on you.