Recently our enforcement team came across an investment scheme where the scam artist used a legitimate company as bait to try and separate investors from their money. The scheme involved “spoofing” or masquerading as a real company by lifting information from a legitimate company’s website on to a fictitious website for the purposes of raising funds. It’s like a case of stolen identity – the ‘fraudulent’ company even copied the biographies of some of the legitimate company’s directors.
How can you protect yourself from a spoofing scheme? When you visit a website to seek more information about an investment opportunity, scrutinize the information that is presented, and investigate further before you invest.
Here’s what to watch for:
- Unsolicited investment opportunities made over the phone or via email.
- Websites that ask for your contact information but do not provide you with any information about who is overseeing the company or how to contact them.
- Misleading photos and images aimed to appeal to your dreams and emotions that don’t truly represent the investment opportunity.
- Ads and websites that look professional, but a closer review reveals spelling and grammar mistakes.
- Buzz words or reference to market trends - these can lure you in as you feel you are part of something "big" (e.g. green energy).
- Language or complex diagrams that baffle you with technology jargon, but do not contain much quality information about what the investment actually entails.
What you can do:
- If the website outlines the backgrounds of those involved in the investment opportunity, search their names on the internet to find out more about the individuals.
- Contact the Alberta Securities Commission (ASC) to see if the company or individuals offering the opportunity are registered or if there are any current or prior enforcement proceedings, orders or decisions against them. You can search on our website, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call toll-free 1-877-355-4488.
- Check the credibility of the information provided by the company. One way to do so is to compare it against the information the company filed with securities regulators. For public companies, these documents are available on www.sedar.com.
- Get independent expert advice from someone not involved in the business deal.
- Walk away if pressured to make a decision on the investment right away.
If you or someone you know has come across this type of investment scheme, please contact ASC Public Inquiries at 403-355-4151, toll free 1-877-355-4488 or email email@example.com.
About this Blog
We’ve created this blog to present you with answers to some of the more popular questions we receive from investors. We'll have different subject matter experts blogging about what they know best and we'll update it as new blogs arise. We hope you'll find it interesting and helpful.
My name is Mark Dickey and I’m the Senior Advisor, Communications at the Alberta Securities Commission (ASC). Before moving into communications and ending up at the ASC, I worked in federal/territorial politics and was a radio news director and legislative reporter. A theme running throughout my career is working to communicate with the public so they have the information they need to make informed decisions. In my current job, this information is geared towards helping people protect themselves against unsuitable investments and investment fraud. Here are some links I think you’ll find helpful:
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If you have a question you would like to see answered on this page, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We may not use every question we receive but will concentrate on areas from which we receive the most inquiries.
If you have a question related directly to your own situation, please contact ASC inquiries using our toll free number (1-877-355-4488) or email email@example.com. If you have a complaint, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 403-355-3888.
We encourage you to make use of our ASC resources to reduce your vulnerability to fraud, and to help you to become a better informed investor with some knowledge of how the markets work.
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