ASC launches interactive spoof website to educate Albertans about imitated investment firms
CALGARY – In recognition of Fraud Prevention Month, the Alberta Securities Commission (ASC) launched a multi-media campaign to raise awareness of spoofed and cloned websites of legitimate registered investment firms. The campaign features an interactive spoof website that highlights several tell-tale signs of fraud in an easy-to-navigate educational manner.
The act of “cloning” or “spoofing” involves fraudsters creating a website that imitates or closely resembles a legitimate registered investment firm’s website and information, most often unbeknownst to them.
“We’ve seen an increase in the number of scams using professional-looking websites that impersonate legitimate firms,” said Hilary McMeekin, Director, Communications and Investor Education with the ASC. “We created a new tool to help investors, and all Albertans can now use our spoof website to safely explore common red flags. The site also provides key steps they can take to verify the legitimacy and registration of any investment firm found online or marketed through pop-up ads.”
Spoofed or cloned websites are frequently used by fraudsters hoping to take advantage of those interested in investing, “getting in early,” looking for low or competitive rates, or not missing out on the latest trend or great “opportunity” to make money. Potential investors may come across spoofed or cloned sites through internet searches and pop-up ads offering attractive returns and no risks. They can also be targeted through email, text, apps and social networks where they are encouraged to visit the fraudulent website. Once on the website, they are strongly urged to invest and to deposit additional funds if it “appears” they have made money. Although some websites will allow investors to withdraw early returns, this is only to establish credibility, and most often all further requests to withdraw money are denied.
In addition to exploring the red flags of fraud, the ASC’s spoof website directs visitors to the resources and tools available at CheckFirst.ca.
Even seasoned investors can fall prey to fraudulent investment opportunities and cloned websites. It is important to be familiar with the red flags of fraud and report any suspicious investments to the ASC’s public inquiries office at 1-877-355-4488 or firstname.lastname@example.org. In particular, investors should:
1) Be suspicious of any unsolicited investment offers made online, on social media or over the phone, especially if they require payment in bitcoin or other digital assets. Remain cautious even if you may have initiated contact with the firm.
2) Be mindful of the red flags of cloned/spoofed websites and duplicate websites for firms found through pop-up ads and internet searches.
3) Always check the registration of any firm you are interested in working with by visiting www.checkfirst.ca/check-registration/. Securities law requires all investment industry professionals and firms be registered in the province you reside in.
4) Only contact the number listed on the firm’s registration found in the Alberta-based registrant list on the ASC website if based in Alberta or the National Registration Search provided by the Canadian Securities Administrators. This will ensure you contact the legitimate firm.
CheckFirst.ca also includes a new guide for those interested in investing in crypto assets, as well as virtual presentations on fraud awareness and crypto asset 101.
The ASC is the regulatory agency responsible for administering the province’s securities laws. It is entrusted with fostering a fair and efficient capital market in Alberta and with protecting investors. As a member of the Canadian Securities Administrators, the ASC works to improve, coordinate and harmonize the regulation of Canada’s capital markets.
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