Securities and Exchange Commission staff is issuing this Investor Alert in response to a number of fraudulent solicitations currently underway that purport to be affiliated with or sponsored by the federal government and legitimate securities regulators. If you are contacted by an organization calling itself the "Chicago Division of Securities," the "Division of Securities, Chicago Illinois," the "Federal Division of Securities, New York" or the "New York Securities Division," be aware that they are not affiliated with the Securities and Exchange Commission and are not legitimate securities regulators. They are scams.
Many government impersonators target investors who have already been victims of fraud. Often, the impersonators will claim to help investors recover their investment-related losses for a substantial fee disguised as some type of tax, deposit, or refundable insurance bond.
A characteristic of some of these fraudulent schemes to deceive and defraud unwary investors is the use of websites and email addresses ending in ".us" or ".org" and containing ".gov" as part of the domain address. We are not aware of any U.S. government agency that has a website or email address that ENDS in anything other than ".gov," ".mil," or "fed.us." Investors should beware of any website or correspondence purporting to be from a U.S. government agency bearing an email address or website domain that does not end in ".gov," ".mil," or "fed.us."
If you receive a telephone call or email from someone claiming to be from the SEC (or another government agency), always verify the person's identity. You can call the SEC at (800) SEC-0330 for general information, including information about SEC enforcement actions and any investor claims funds. Our online Question Form is another way you can ask us about a solicitation. You can find a directory of legitimate state and provincial regulators in Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. on the website of the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA). A list of international securities regulators is on the website of the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO). Be wary of anyone who claims to work for a securities regulator that is not on these lists.
The SEC receives complaints from investors and others, including foreign securities regulators, about fictitious governmental organizations. In an effort to warn the public about these entities, the SEC maintains a list on our website called Public Alert: Unregistered Soliciting Entities (the PAUSE list). You should be aware that the PAUSE list does not include all fictitious governmental agencies and international organizations. Also, you should understand that the inclusion of a name on this list does not mean that the SEC has concluded that a violation of the U.S. securities laws has occurred.
If you have been contacted by someone misrepresenting him or herself as an SEC staff member, please let us know by either calling us or submitting a Complaint Form. You may also report the incident to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at www.ic3.gov.
For additional tips on investing wisely and avoiding fraud, please visit the following web pages:
Updated Investor Alert: Investors Beware of Government Impersonators (April 2013)
Updated Investor Alert: Investors Beware of Government Impersonators (November 2012)
Investor Alert: Investors Beware of Government Impersonators (February 2012)
PAUSE List of Fictitious Governmental Agencies and International Organizations Associated with Soliciting Entities
Fake Seals and Phony Numbers: How Fraudsters Try to Look Legit
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 concerning the meaning or application of a particular law or rule, please consult with an attorney who specializes in securities law.