The hijacking of the brands of legitimate financial firms and institutions is becoming a popular way for scammers to get into your pocketbook.
Yesterday, the Alberta RCMP Integrated Market Enforcement Team (IMET) issued a warning of current online sophisticated scams involving fraudulent investment firms. Scammers are known to be spoofing credible financial institutions to con victims into believing they are legitimate.
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 several 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. Scammers impersonate actual investment professionals, using their names, job titles, and even fraudulent credentials.
The websites and materials provided to victims are of 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 finances, and send them money via wire transfers and bank drafts.
MET 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 invest. 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 that detects, investigates, and deters market fraud.
If you believe you are a victim of a scam, please report it to the Cochrane RCMP by phoning 403-932-2211, to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at www.antifraudcentre.ca, or call 1-888-495-8501.