In today’s ever-evolving online world, we have become used to the convenience and intuitive experiences available through the internet. While these technological improvements have been game-changers in our daily lives, scam artists are increasingly taking advantage of our comfort and compliancy online to target us with websites impersonating legitimately registered banks and brokerage firms.
The act of “Cloning” or “Spoofing” is when fraudsters create fake websites that mimic a legitimate company’s website and information, often unbeknownst to them. These websites can even utilize the actual address and employee names from the legitimate company and can be promoted online through pop-up ads or found through search engine results.
Before you consider conducting financial or investing activities online, follow these key steps to avoid cloned websites and scams.
1. Avoid investments offered online or found through search engine results – Investment offers promoted through pop-up ads or found on search engine results can be fake. Be skeptical of promised attractive investment returns and take the time to do your research into the investment. Contact the bank or firm in the ad or search result using their legitimate phone number or website address listed on their registration found on the Alberta Securities Commissions registration list for Alberta-based firms and institutions and the Canadian Securities Adminstrators National Registration Search for those based in another province or territory in Canada. By law, firms and individuals offering investments to you must be registered in the province you live in.
2. Pay attention to the details – Before you provide any information, money, or log in to the website, review and make sure you have spelled the website URL correctly. If you found the website online or through an ad, pay attention to oddities, including spelling and grammatical mistakes, incorrect area codes, odd logos, stock photos, and chat functions requesting personal information such as an email address.
3. Be wary of unusual forms of payment – Fraudsters may try and correspond with you over social media like WhatsApp for the investment offer or request payment with cryptocurrency or wire transfers. These are red flags of fraud and legitimate investments are never conducted over social media and typically do not require payment in digital assets or wire transfers.
4. Be cautious of fraudsters posing as representatives – Fraudsters may impersonate actual investment professionals, using their names, job titles, and even fraudulent credentials to offer various financial products and services over the phone and online. To further enhance this deception, fraudsters will even falsify documents, including particular statements or trade commissions and may even direct victims to check the firm’s registration or incorporation details. While the legitimate bank or firm is registered, you are not talking to an actual representative employed by them. Compare the website’s contact details with the contact details listed on the registration for the firm on the ASC registration list or CSA National Registration Search and contact the number listed in its registration to verify that you’re talking to a real representative.
5. Report recovery room scams – Fraudsters often target and contact those who have lost money with an investment scam, claiming that they will be able to retrieve their money for a fee. They may also claim there is a technical issue or tax fee and request more money from the victim to retrieve their funds. If you are contacted by someone offering to recover your investments or money, keep all records of communication with the individual and report it to the ASC.
Fraudsters are continually looking for new ways to deceive and imitate the registered banks and brokerage firms online. By staying vigilant and following the steps above, you can confidently recognize, avoid and report bad actors.