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Investor Alert: Beware of Government Impersonators Targeting Fraud Victims

June 27, 2016

The SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy (OIEA) is issuing this Investor Alert because we are aware of communications, including official looking documents, that falsely claim to be issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission and seek money from investors who have already been victims of fraud.

The SEC staff is aware of government impersonators targeting investors who have already been victims of fraud.  Often, the impersonators will claim to help investors recover their investment-related losses for a fee.  This fee may be disguised as some type of tax, deposit, or refundable insurance bond.  Or the government impersonators may claim to offer legal services for a fee to help investors receive compensation or a settlement payout relating to a SEC enforcement action or a class action lawsuit.  For example, we are aware of communications pretending to be from the SEC that claim to offer legal services to investors with regard to the SEC’s enforcement action against Banc de Binary.

Avoid becoming a victim twice.  Be aware that:

  • Impersonators may copy or imitate the official SEC seal without authorization. 
  • Fake documents may include forged signatures of SEC officials.
  • Fake documents may look authentic and include a link to the SEC’s website, www.sec.gov
  • Impersonators may send email messages that appear to come from SEC email accounts. 
  • If you receive an email message claiming to be from a U.S. government agency and the sender’s email address does not end in “.gov”, “.mil”, or "fed.us", you should be particularly skeptical. Even if the sender’s email address appears to end in “.gov”, “.mil”, or "fed.us", an impersonator may have sent the email message.

If you are unsure whether correspondence claiming to be from the SEC is authentic, call the SEC’s toll-free investor assistance line at (800) 732-0330 (or 1-202-551-6551 from outside of the U.S.), or submit a question online to the SEC.

If you have been contacted by someone pretending to be from the SEC, submit a Complaint Form to the SEC’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) or call the OIG’s toll-free hotline at (877) 442-0854.

In some cases, investors harmed by securities fraud or other securities law violations may be eligible to receive money recovered by the SEC.  To learn more, read Investor Bulletin: How Harmed Investors May Recover Money.  For information about SEC enforcement actions and any specific investor claims funds, you can call the SEC’s toll-free investor assistance line at (800) 732-0330 (or 1-202-551-6551 from outside of the U.S.).

Additional Information

Updated Investor Alert: SEC Warns of Government Impersonators (February 2016)

Updated Investor Alert: Beware of Companies Using the SEC Seal (April 2015)

Investor Alert: Be on the Lookout for Advance Fee Fraud (September 2014)

Investor Alert: SEC Warns of Bogus Securities Regulators Soliciting Investors (May 2013)

Fake Seals and Phony Numbers: How Fraudsters Try to Look Legit

FTC Identity Theft Site

Visit Investor.gov, the SEC’s website for individual investors.

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Ask OIEA a question.

 

 

The Office of Investor Education and Advocacy has provided this information as a service to investors. It is neither a legal interpretation nor a statement of SEC policy. If you have questions conce