The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) says con-artists have been impersonating its staff to trick investors and broker-dealer firms into handing over private information and money.
The regulator is warning investors and financial services firms to be on guard following a number of cases which have seen fraudsters trick people in the US and abroad into providing access to brokerage accounts and even sending money and other assets to the imposters.
Other cases have seen unknown con-artists impersonating SEC examiners to gather confidential information from broker-dealers and investment advisers. Imposters have contacted firms by telephone, identified themselves as members of the SEC staff and demanded immediate access to the firm's records, sometimes claiming to be conducting an "emergency" examination.
The SEC says it never makes or endorses investment offers or participates in money transfers. Nor does it send e-mails asking for detailed personal information or financial information such as PIN numbers.
"Investors should be especially wary, in these turbulent times, of any unsolicited investment offer, and should always verify the credentials of the individuals making the offer," said Kristin Kaepplein, director, office of investor education and advocacy, SEC. "If contacted by someone claiming to represent the Securities and Exchange Commission and vouching for investments, it's a scam. The SEC never endorses or participates in investment offers."