"Dash" Gov Sites Part of Ploy to Dash Off With Your Money
Be wary of any stock pitch that ends with the salesperson sending you to a "government" regulator's website. There's a good chance it's a scam.
We have received calls and investor complaints from international investors who have been sent to an "official" site that turns out to be phony. The latest twist involves sites that use "-gov.us" in the Web address to resemble the ".gov.xx" designation — where "xx" is a 2-letter country code — that official government websites outside the U.S. typically use. For example, the Australian Securities & Investments Commission's website is www.asic.gov.au. In the U.S., the websites of federal agencies all end with ".gov" — not "-gov" or "-gov.us." The official U.S. government regulator of securities is the Securities and Exchange Commission, whose website is www.sec.gov.
We are aware of at least three sites that are using the -gov.us trick:
- Central Registry Regulators. The site claims the organization "administers and enforces the federal securities laws in order to protect investors and to maintain fair, honest, and efficient markets."
- National Mergers and Acquisitions Board, which claims "to oversee, administer and enforce the federal securities laws relating to corporate Mergers and Acquisitions (M & A)."
- Board of Commissioners of Mergers & Acquisitions, which also claims, in exactly the same language as the site above, "to oversee, administer and enforce the federal securities laws relating to corporate Mergers and Acquisitions (M & A)."
As noted in a previous Investor Alert, Well-Traveled Fraud—Advance-Fee Scams Target Non-U.S. Investors, these phony websites look real and contain plenty of investor information, which is often stolen from the sites of legitimate regulators. The sites are one of the many ploys used in advance fee scams that try to get investors to send money in advance of any service rendered. These fake sites often use "cookies" to track visitors and gather information.
If you suspect fraud on the part of a U.S. firm or individual, or simply want to talk through an investment that seems too good to be true, call FINRA at (240) 386-4357 or file a complaint or question using FINRA's online Investor Complaint Center.
Remember that only official government websites are allowed to use .gov in their URL. If you see a -gov.us in the address bar, it's a good bet you're being conned.
- The SEC's publications Fake Seals and Phony Numbers: How Fraudsters Try to Look Legit, Worthless Stock: How to Avoid Doubling Your Losses, and The Fleecing of Foreign Investors: Avoid Getting Burned by "Hot" U.S. Stocks.
- Australian Securities and Investment Commission's Alert Fake International 'Regulators' Help Swindle Australians Investing Overseas.
- North American Securities Administrators Association's Alert NASAA Warns Investors to Beware of Phantom Regulators.
- International Organisation of Securities Commissions Member Lists for the names, addresses, telephone numbers, and website URLs of securities regulators and exchanges world-wide.
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