Last month, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a frightening warning to investors who've been the targets of fraud. There are impersonators targeting these victims again, offering fake legal services and other fraudulent relief.
The SEC warns that not all correspondence appearing to come from the agency is real. Whether or not you have been the victim of an investment fraud in the past, be very careful when considering mail supposedly originating from the government. Let's consider what the SEC knows and how you can spot a fake.
According to the SEC, fraudsters are targeting victims of previous investment fraud schemes in particular, offering them what seems to be relief. But beware. You may be setting yourself up for another fall if you respond. The agency explains how prior fraud victims are targeted and their money is taken from them again.
It writes in a statement, "Often, the impersonators will claim to help investors recover their investment-related losses for a fee. This fee may be disguised as some type of tax, deposit, or refundable insurance bond. Or the government impersonators may claim to offer legal services for a fee to help investors receive compensation or a settlement payout relating to a SEC enforcement action or a class action lawsuit."
If you are contacted and doubt the veracity of the communication, follow up on your hunch. Call the SEC to verify the program offered exists and that you are an appropriate beneficiary of it. Do not hand over information to strangers just because they claim to be government agents.
Learn to spot suspicious documents. Here is what the SEC says you should know so that you are not duped by superficial signs of authenticity. Be aware of the following:
- Impersonators may copy or imitate the official SEC seal without authorization.
- Fake documents may include forged signatures of SEC officials.
- Fake documents may look authentic and include a link to the SEC's website.
- Impersonators may send email messages that appear to come from SEC email accounts.
- Email where the sender's address does not end in ".gov, ".mil, or "fed.us" is highly suspect. A genuine-seeming email address, however, is no guarantee of veracity either.
If you have been the target of a fraudulent communication, report it to the SEC. The agency may even be able to assist you in recovering money if you were a fraud victim. But make sure you're dealing with the real thing to avoid a double whammy.