SIPC Exposes Phony "Look-Alike" Web Site
Dec. 2, 2009
Never underestimate the creativity and duplicity of con artists. They will do anything to separate you from your money and securities. In one case, a group of fraudsters created a fake mirror image of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC)'s website and used the "look-alike" site to mislead investors.
In order to warn investors about this scam, SIPC issued a press release which exposed a fictitious entity known as the International Brokerage Association ("IBA"). The IBA website mimics almost exactly the look, feel, and content of SIPC's website – with one notable exception. In the "members" area of the SIPC website, investors can confirm whether a brokerage firm is a member of SIPC by doing a search against the SIPC database. The IBA website, by contrast, simply lists IBA's supposed members. Included among IBA's members are fraudulent firms that do not appear on SIPC's membership list and that are not registered with either the SEC or FINRA.
Investor Tip: To find out whether a firm is truly a member of SIPC, call SIPC's Membership Department at (202) 371-8300 or check the real SIPC's website at http://www.sipc.org/who/database.cfm.
Fraudsters have encouraged investors worldwide to use the IBA website to "verify" the legitimacy of fraudulent brokerage firms. But the IBA does not exist, and at least some of its so-called members are unlicensed, unregulated brokerage firms.
Don't be fooled by brokerage firms that tell you how and where to check out their credentials. Do your own independent investigation. Your first step should be to contact your securities regulator and the securities regulator where the firm claims to do business.
It's not hard to figure out who the real regulators and legitimate entities are and how you can contact them. But make sure the URL matches the ones listed below:
- International Regulators - You'll find a list of international securities regulators on the website of the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) at http://www.iosco.org.
- FINRA - The federal securities laws require that virtually every securities firm doing business with the U.S. public must be a member of FINRA. You'll find information on how FINRA registers and governs its members firm on FINRA's website at http://www.finra.org.
- Securities and Exchange Commission - Our web site is http://www.sec.gov. You'll find legitimate contact information for the SEC in the Contact Us section at http://www.sec.gov/contact.shtml and on SEC Division Homepages at http://www.sec.gov/divisions.shtml. If you're ever unsure whether you're dealing with someone from the real SEC, submit Questions and Comments Form.
- SIPC - SIPC is a non-profit organization created by Congress in 1970 to protect the customers of insolvent brokerage firms. You'll find the real SIPC - the one and only SIPC - at http://www.sipc.org/index.html.
- State and provincial regulators in Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. - You'll find a directory on the website of the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) at http://www.nasaa.org.