MONTANA STATE AUDITOR WARNS INVESTORS TO BEWARE OF PHONY REGULATORS
Foreign investors getting a bad deal, in any language
Helena, Mont., July 28, 2005 - Want to check out a hot stock tip before you invest? Make sure you aren't getting bad advice from con artists posing as regulators, warns Montana State Auditor John Morrison.
Montana State Auditor John Morrison warned that several fake "regulators" have been brought to the attention of Montana securities regulators and regulators around the country. These "regulators" claim to be based in the United States and often target overseas investors.
"Our securities markets are known around the world for being among the safest and most fair, due in no small part to the rigorous and efficient regulatory systems in place here. Con artists are trying to cash in on our good name abroad to lure unsuspecting investors into risky penny stocks and advance fee schemes," Morrison said.
Morrison identified a number of imitation "regulators," including: the Regulatory Compliance Commission, the International Regulatory Commission, the International Compliance Commission, the International Shareholder Protection Division and the International Exchange Regulatory Commission. Each of these entities had websites and listed addresses and telephone numbers in the United States and none have any relation to real regulatory agencies or organizations.
"Some of these websites may look very legitimate but all successful scams do, at first. These websites offer nothing more than fancy window-dressing to lure investors into buying worthless securities from unlicensed stockbrokers," Morrison said, adding that these brokers and their offers are often "verified" by the phony regulators.
Last year, a company known as Royal Acquisitions directed potential investors to a phony Montana regulator called the International Securities Regulatory Commission, claiming to be based in Helena. The Montana Securities Department investigated and found the Helena address to be fictitious. They also discovered that both entities were not registered to conduct business in the state. An alert was immediately posted on the department's web site.
Morrison said investors lose billions of dollars a year to securities fraud and warned, "There are probably many more fake regulators with websites and shell offices like these. The Internet is a big place, making it difficult to police, and sometimes dangerous for investors." To help investors determine if they are dealing with a bogus regulator, Morrison issued the following warning signs:
Top 5 Signs That You Are Dealing with A Fake Regulator
1. You cannot find references to them on any other regulatory websites. If you can't find information about the "regulator" on the site of the International Organization of Securities Commissions, www.iosco.org, they probably are not a legitimate regulator.
2. They endorse or approve any investment opportunity, stock, or company. Legitimate regulators are not in the business of promoting any deal, only enforcing securities laws and ensuring fair dealing.
3. They say that paying a fee to "release restricted shares" is anything other than an attempt to steal your savings. This is a common ploy, and a recent twist on age-old advance fee schemes.
4. Little or no information about the "regulator" appears in Internet search engines. Any legitimate regulator should generate hundreds of entries in any Internet search engine.
5. If you talk to other regulators, and they say they have "never heard of them," you are most likely dealing with a fake regulator.
Anyone with Montana securities-related questions or concerns is invited to contact the Montana State Auditor's Office at 1-800-332-6148 or 444-2040 in Helena or at www.sao.mt.gov.
Contact information for state, territorial, and provincial regulators in the United States, Canada and Mexico can be found on the website of the North American Securities Administrators Association at www.nasaa.org. NASAA is the oldest international organization devoted to investor protection. Its membership consists of the securities administrators in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the provinces and territories of Canada, and Mexico.