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Updated Investor Alert: SEC Warns of Fake Correspondence

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) Office of Investor Education and Advocacy is issuing this updated Investor Alert to warn investors that fraudsters may use fake SEC correspondence as part of a scam to steal your money (including phony letters using the SEC seal and purporting to be signed by SEC Inspector General Carl Hoecker).

The SEC does not facilitate the settlement of unpaid trading related fees, assist with the purchase or sale of securities, or participate in fund transfers. The SEC also does not approve or endorse any particular securities, issuers, products, services, professional credentials, firms, or individuals. Correspondence purporting to come from the SEC is not genuine if it:

  • Claims that the SEC has issued a request for a temporary stop payment order;
  • Instructs you to make payment to settle unpaid trading related fees or penalties;
  • Seeks or offers assistance to transfer funds;
  • Recognizes individuals or firms as agents;
  • Suggests that an investment is legitimate or encourages you to proceed with an investment; or
  • Offers you grants or other financial assistance (especially for an upfront fee).

Before taking any action based on correspondence purporting to come from the SEC that advises you that you own certain securities or verifies that you are the beneficiary of certain securities, contact the SEC online or call 1-800-SEC-0330.

Fake SEC correspondence may look authentic and include a link to the SEC’s website, Email messages may appear to come from SEC email accounts. Letters may imitate the official SEC seal and forge signatures of SEC officials. 

If you receive correspondence that claims to be from someone at the SEC, do not call the phone number provided in the correspondence. Instead, use the SEC’s personnel locator, 1-202-551-6000, and ask to speak with the person directly.

If you are unsure whether correspondence appearing to be from the SEC is authentic, submit a question online to the SEC or call the SEC at 1-800-SEC-0330 (or 1-202-551-6551 if calling from outside of the United States). If you receive a letter or email misrepresenting that it is from SEC staff or Commissioners, submit a complaint online to the SEC. You may also report the incident to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Before investing, check out the background, including registration or license status and disciplinary history, of any firm or individual you are considering dealing with through the SEC’s IAPD website or the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)’s BrokerCheck website. You can also contact your state securities regulator. If you cannot verify that they are registered, do not trade with them, do not give them any money, and do not share your personal information with them.

Additional Resources

Investor Alert: SEC Warns of Fake Correspondence (October 2013)

Investor Alert: Beware Investment Offers Implying SEC Endorsement (June 2013)

Updated Investor Alert: SEC Warns of Government Impersonators (April 2013)

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.

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