FINRA issues investor alert about calls from brokerage firm imposters

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) issued a new alert on August 6, 2013 labeled as Cold Calls from Brokerage Firm Imposters—Beware of Old-Fashioned Phishing to warn investors of calls from scammers claiming to be representatives of at least one well-known brokerage firm. In this latest twist on phishing scams, the fraudsters are cold-calling investors claiming to offer information about certificates of deposit with yields well above the best rates in the market in an attempt to get potential victims to divulge their personal or financial account information.

FINRA is reminding investors who receive unsolicited calls to never provide personal information or authorize any transfer of funds to any unknown person, and encourages anyone who believes that he/she has been scammed to file a complaint using its online Complaint Center or send a tip to FINRA’s Office of the Whistleblower.

August 7th, 2013|Fraud|

Fake your way into a dream job for under $60

The job market is tight and fake-your-career services are in bloom. Buy a Job Reference, which describes itself as a “shameless service,” boasts that in the first six months of 2010, it assisted nearly 400 clients in gaining employment (but links to success stories do not work so maybe the stories are fake too.) For the low price of $59.99, payable through credit cards and PayPal, the company will supply a personalized fake employer name, phone number and address, suitable for any occupation you choose. And if you need a new apartment to go with that new job, for $29.99 the company will set you up with glowing previous landlord references., a self-proclaimed “world’s largest network of job reference providers” since July 2009, is more expensive with a $65 set-up fee plus an undisclosed amount for a 30-day answering service, and a $20 monthly subscription. This basic package includes a “professional voicemail system that many banks and large companies use, calls that are returned from voicemail within 24 hours armed with positive references provided by you, and a toll-free number and e-mail addresses for your references.” If you really want to impress a prospective employer, there is a premium plan for $195+ that will upgrade the verifications to a live receptionist. But once you land that dream job, most likely you will have to wait a while before you accrue any paid time off. Guess what? For $35 you can get some bereavement days with CareerExcuse operators standing by to verify that your designated relative is deceased, and avail a real funeral home Web site and address for flower delivery. CareerExcuse apparently wants to be a one-stop shop for all your fibbing needs, as it also provides links to instant “real university degrees.”

According to several Internet sources, including, Alibi HQ also is or has been in the fake reference business; however, its Web site address,, leads only to a spam-type search page. said in its August 2009 article that Alibi HQ charges $199 for the first 90 days and $50 for each additional month for the fictitious declarations. Mark Stevens, a purported Alibi HQ spokesman, told that the company, which also offers fake landlord references and fake doctor’s notes, has been operating for several years, and that customer interest in employment references has skyrocketed over the last year (2009) with calls from people seeking Alibi HQ’s services quadrupling.

So how do these companies get away with such slippery handicraft? Each claims that it will not do anything that defies the law, including providing references for loan purposes. CareerExcuse contends that in a segment by KENS-5 in San Antonio, the Better Business Bureau did not question the legality of its services, although it did not give the company a “ringing” endorsement. But legal experts say that such companies and the clients they serve may ultimately find themselves as defendants in lawsuits filed by duped employers.

Common securities fraud schemes on the Internet

Pump and Dump: These types of schemes are quick manipulations of the stock price. The schemers buy thinly traded stocks and then transmit optimistic messages about the stocks, which cause  investors to buy, thus driving up the price. The ownership interest that the schemers have in the particular stock is not disclosed. The schemers then sell the stock for significant gains. Their messages are transmitted through official looking e-mails, bulletin board posts or Web sites.
Dump and Diss: This is the pump and dump scheme in reverse. The schemers short-sell a stock and then transmit negative messages to investors causing the investors to sell, which in turn drives down the price. No disclosure is made of the negative position that the schemers have in the stock. They then buy the lower valued stock to fill their earlier sell orders and make a profit on the difference.
Insider Trading: The recipients of non-public information use the insider information to trade ahead of the information’s release, and subsequently realize profits.
Unregistered Offerings: Purported issuers of securities offer and/or sell securities through the Web without being registered or exempt from federal and state securities laws.
Pre-IPO Offerings: Purported issuers offer and/or sell shares of their company to investors based on the premise that the company soon will be going public. Some of these companies do not exist or are marginally successful.
Private Placement Offerings: Purported issuers offer and/or sell shares of their company with the usual promise of high returns, with the help of slick promotional materials. The companies turn out to be nonexistent.
Prime Bank Offerings: Purported sellers offer and/or sell interests in some type of prime bank instrument. The investors are advised to put their money into the prime banks of Europe in a program that generally is available only to the very wealthy, but because there is a “shortage” for the particular program, it is being offered for a smaller minimum investment. Prime bank instruments do not exist.
July 30th, 2010|Educational Series, Fraud|

Do you know how to spot online scams?

To educate consumers about online scams, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) set up a Web site for Esteemed Lending Services, an online company that looks reliable and reputable, and promises easy advance-fee loans to anyone. But the company and the site are fictitious, designed to tip you off to the signs of loan scams. The FTC also has other “phony sites” for scam awareness for products such as diet aids (FatFoe) and made-up diabetes treatment (Glucobate.) Remember that as part of our investigation strategies for business transactions, SI includes Web site reviews to detect incredulities, too-good-to-be-true statements, boasts of unrealistic investment returns, and even wording that is unfitting for the particular industry.

July 14th, 2010|Educational Series, Fraud|
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