Sensing a rise in crypto-related scams and fraudulent investment schemes, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) have issued a joint warning to investors, encouraging them to take a more thorough approach to verifying potential investments in the space.
The warning was published on April 24, 2019, by the SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy and the Office of Customer Education and Outreach at the CFTC.
In the notice, the agencies described crypto-related investment scams in which perpetrators — disguised as cryptocurrency trading businesses and advisory firms — collect funds from unsuspecting investors.
“In some cases, the fraudsters claim to invest customers’ funds in proprietary crypto trading systems or in ‘mining’ farms. The fraudsters promise high guaranteed returns (for example, 20-50%) with little or no risk,” according to the warning. “After the investors make an investment, typically using a digital asset such as Bitcoin, the fraudsters in some cases stop communicating with the investors altogether.”
The agencies also provided six warning signs that investors should look for before making financial commitments in any crypto-related project.
The agencies’ warning signs include “guaranteed” high investment returns, pressure to buy immediately, unsolicited offers, unlicensed sellers, complicated terminologies and jargon-filled documents, as well as the terms of the potential investment sounding just “too good to be true.”
The SEC and the CFTC also urged potential crypto investors to check Investor.gov to cross-reference the licenses of any scheme operators with the SEC’s official database, as any investment that is unregistered or unlicensed is most likely a scam. Those who had invested in what they suspect to be a scam can also report the program and its operators on the site.