Not content with general doom mongering on the perils of investing in Initial Coin Offerings, the Securities and Exchange Commission has gone one step further, creating its own mock ICO website that touts an all too good to be true investment opportunity.
The bogus wbesite, HoweyCoins.com
, mimics a fake coin offering to educate investors about what to look for before they invest in a scam.
The site features several of the enticements that are common to fraudulent offerings, including a white paper with a complex yet vague explanation of the investment opportunity, promises of guaranteed returns, and a countdown clock that shows time is quickly running out on the deal of a lifetime.
“Fraudsters can quickly build an attractive website and load it up with convoluted jargon to lure investors into phony deals,” says Owen Donley, chief counsel of the SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy, who doubles as 'Josh Hinze' on the HoweyCoins website. “But fraudulent sites also often have red flags that can be dead giveaways if you know what to look for.”
The website’s name, HoweyCoins, is a bit of an Easter egg — a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Howey test that’s used to determine whether a transaction is an investment contract.
Would-be investors foolish enough to click on the 'Buy Coins Now' button will be led instead to investor education tools and tips from the SEC and other financial regulators.
SEC Chairman Jay Clayton says: “We embrace new technologies, but we also want investors to see what fraud looks like, so we built this educational site with many of the classic warning signs of fraud. Distributed ledger technology can add efficiency to the capital raising process, but promoters and issuers need to make sure they follow the securities laws. I encourage investors to do their diligence and ask questions.”
Elsewhere in the crazy world of cryptocurrency investing, bitcoin mining firm Genesis hired 100 actors to create a noise outside of the Concensus Conference in New York City by masquerading as a #BankersAgainstBitcoin protest group.