Fraudsters often impersonate organizations or individuals to lure victims into scams. They may impersonate government agencies or employees, or legitimate investment professionals like brokers and investment advisers. Impersonators may be part of an advance fee scam, or may use personal information they obtain to steal an individual’s identity or misappropriate their financial assets. Investors should be aware of these impersonation schemes:
Fraudsters may impersonate the SEC.
Communications – including phone calls, voicemails, text messages, messages via social media, emails, letters, and certificates – may falsely appear to be from the SEC. Be skeptical if you are contacted by someone claiming to be from the SEC asking about your shareholdings, account numbers, PIN numbers, passwords, digital addresses, or other information that may be used to access your financial accounts. It may be part of a scam to compromise your investment, financial, or other personal accounts. If you receive a communication that appears to be from the SEC, do not provide any personal information until you have verified that you are dealing with someone from the SEC, and not an impersonator.
If you receive a communication that falsely appears to be from the SEC, submit an Investor Complaint Form to the SEC. If you have lost money in a scheme involving SEC impersonation, submit a complaint at www.sec.gov/oig to the SEC’s Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) or call the OIG’s toll-free hotline at (833) SEC-OIG1 (732-6441).
Fraudsters may impersonate registered brokers or investment advisers.
Fraudsters may set up an account name, profile, or handle designed to mimic a particular individual or firm. They may create a webpage that uses the real firm’s logo, links to the firm’s actual website, or references the name of an actual person who works for the firm. Fraudsters also may direct investors to an imposter website by posting comments in the social media account of brokers, investment advisers, or other sources of market information.
Verify that you are communicating with an investment professional and not an imposter. For example, contact the professional using a phone number or website listed in the firm’s Client Relationship Summary (Form CRS). To ensure you are looking at a genuine copy of the firm’s Form CRS, follow these steps:
- In the “Check Out Your INVESTMENT PROFESSIONAL” search box on Investor.gov, select “Firm” from the drop down options and type in the name of the firm.
- In the search results, click on the relevant firm and then click on “Get Details.”
- Click on “Relationship Summary” or “Part 3 Relationship Summary.”