The Alberta RCMP Integrated Market Enforcement Team (IMET) is warning individuals of current online scams involving fraudulent investment firms. Scammers are known to be spoofing credible financial institutions in an effort to con victims into believing they are legitimate and transferring them funds.
These “brand hijacking” scams, also known as “clone firms,” first target victims through their online searches. Victims search specific investment products via the web and, subsequently, their top search engine results include a number of advertisements linked to fake websites where they are prompted to provide their contact information.
Scammers then contact victims, posing as representatives of brand name investment firms or financial institutions. These frauds are sophisticated in that scammers impersonate actual investment professionals, using their names, job titles, and even fraudulent credentials. The websites and materials provided to victims are of a high quality and often identical to those of well-known investment firms. As a result, victims buy into the fake investment products, trust scammers with their personal finances, and send them money via wire transfers and bank drafts.
“This particular fraud trend is very advanced as scammers are spoofing not only real institutions, but also real employees at these institutions,” Sgt. Lloyd Schoepp, from the Alberta RCMP IMET said. “We are working closely with the Alberta Securities Commission and other Canadian securities regulators, the Forensic Accounting Management Group, Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, as well as the Public Prosecution Service of Canada and Specialized Prosecutions of the Province of Alberta, to protect investors from this type of crime and enhance confidence in our country’s capital markets.”
IMET recommends the following tips to avoid online investment scams:
- Avoid advertisements found through search engine results, and only use verified websites. Alternatively, contact a registered investment dealer directly to speak with a representative about your finances.
- Be skeptical of highly competitive or attractive investment returns. Research and compare offers — if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
- Never feel pressured to make an investment. Do your due diligence to determine whether or not investment products are legitimate.
- Watch for subtle variances in email and internet domains used by scammers that upon closer inspection do not match those of legitimate investment companies.
IMET is a specialized unit under the RCMP Federal Policing program that detects, investigates, and deters market fraud.
If you believe yourself to be a victim of a scam, please report it to your local law enforcement and to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre online at www.antifraudcentre.ca, or by calling 1-888-495-8501.