How to recognize the red flags of an unsolicited investment offer

Criminals frequently use digital channels to deploy investment scams that rob Canadians of their hard-earned money every year. According to a survey by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, Canadians lost more than $161.4 million to investment scams in just the first six months of 2023. While these losses are expected to surpass 2022’s total of $305.4 million, the CAFC estimates that only 5-10 per cent of frauds are reported.

One reason so many Canadians fall victim to scams is social engineering. Many times, investment scams start with an unsolicited message designed to deceive: a well-crafted introduction to build trust with the potential victim and set the stage for a “money-making opportunity”.

Some versions of these scams — such as the infamous lottery ticket or Nigerian prince schemes — have existed for decades. However, these swindles have evolved considerably over the last few years. Fraudsters are increasingly leveraging growing interest in online trading, cryptocurrency investing, and social media popularity to target Canadians.

How fraudsters use unsolicited messages to initiate a scam

A random direct message on social media or text serves as the modern equivalent of an unsolicited cold call. Messages often begin simply, like “Hi” or a more personalized greeting such as “Hey, are we still on for coffee?” This could be a fraudster trying to start a conversation.

Fraudsters who use this technique quickly build a rapport by striking up a conversation and making the victim feel like they’ve found a real friend. Scam artists will frequently use publicly available personal details, and the victim’s hobbies and interests from social media, to boost credibility and tailor their scam during this stage. Once trust is established, the scammer will introduce a supposedly lucrative investment opportunity that has earned them large returns, enticing the victim to invest as well.

In a 2023 global study by the Global Anti-Scam Alliance, 34 per cent of victims reported being “attracted to the offer made” as the primary reason for falling victim to a scam.

Signs an unsolicited investment opportunity may be a scam

One of the typical red flags of an investment scam is when a person makes claims about unrealistic returns with little to no risk. A seasoned investor or registered investment advisor will tell you that every investment comes with some degree of risk. The higher the potential return, the higher the degree of risk you may lose most, if not all, of your investment. This holds true, especially with alternative high-risk investments such as crypto.

Scammers also employ tactics of impersonation. A recent Interac survey showed that fraudsters pretended to be representatives of legitimate organizations, including government institutions and securities regulators, to deploy fake banking, credit card, and investment scams. Any unprompted communication that lacks background information about the representative or business should be considered a red flag of potential scam. Remember, requests for personal data in such communications are also a warning sign.

Fraudsters frequently use social media platforms, dating sites, messaging apps like WhatsApp, Kik, Signal and Telegram (which allow users to interact with anyone else using the app), and services like Google Chat for correspondence. These platforms allow scammers to quickly delete their profiles once a scam is complete, thereby hiding their identities.

How can you avoid unsolicited investment offers from turning into a scam?

Taking the time to check the fundamentals of any investment opportunity is crucial. Some other steps you can take to protect yourself and your money from investment scams are:

  • Be wary of any investment advice that you did not seek out yourself. Legitimate registered investment professionals and businesses generally do not conduct outreach via social media or text messages.  
  • Ignore investment offers that use words like ‘proven’ or ‘guaranteed’ investment returns. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.  
  • Avoid any unsolicited crypto investment opportunities offered online or through unknown individuals. Fraudsters often tailor their scams around crypto or fake trading platforms.   
  • Be cautious of unexpected investment offers that come from friends or acquaintances on social media. Fraudsters can hack or create fake accounts that impersonate those you know. 
  • Limit the personal information you share publicly on social media platforms. Fraudsters often tailor scams based on publicly available details about their targets. 
  • Stay cautious of individuals pushing ‘time-limited’ opportunities. These types of offers are meant to create a sense of urgency to prevent you from researching the investment and the person or firm offering it.  
  • Commonly, fraudsters will direct potential victims to cloned websites by mimicking trusted brands. Remember, spoof websites or phishing ads can open you up to fraud risk. Always check the destination URL of an advertisement or website, and be wary of clicking links in unsolicited messages. Better yet, if you are looking for information, go directly to a company’s official website. 
  • Always check to ensure the individual, firm or trading platform you plan to work with is registered with the Alberta Securities Commission before investing. Generally anyone offering investments should be registered with the ASC.

While unexpected investment opportunities can seem enticing, falling victim to fraud can have long-lasting financial and emotional impacts. Educating yourself about common scam tactics and staying vigilant is the best defence against losing your hard-earned money. 

Staying ahead of investment scams in 2023

March is Fraud Prevention Month, a time when Albertans are reminded to brush up on their knowledge of investment scams and fraud to better safeguard themselves and those they care for. One of the most prevalent types of fraud is investment scams, which impacts experienced and new investors alike. In a recent study conducted by the ASC, 48% of Albertans believed they had been approached with a potentially fraudulent investment opportunity.

By understanding the tell-tale signs of fraud and remembering the fundamental principles of making suitable investment decisions, Albertans can recognize, avoid and report investment fraud and financial abuse. Remember the following red flags to safeguard your savings or those of someone you care about from an insidious investment scam.

Leveraging fears or anxieties

A go-to tactic for scam artists is tapping into the financial stressors you (their target) may have. This could include the anxiety of not having enough for retirement, leaving a legacy for loved ones or the fear of missing out on great investments. Regardless, be mindful of anyone trying to tap into your fears or anxieties when offering an investment. It is important to pause and do your research before making any investment decisions. Do an online search to see if there are any news articles, social media posts or disciplinary actions taken against the individual or company. Even if the offer isn’t fraudulent, it may not be right for you so it’s important to understand it and its risks.

New friends or love interests taking an interest in your financial wellbeing

As we connect with friends and family and make new friendships, be wary of any new person in your life who takes an immediate interest in your finances. Fraudsters often work hard to establish trust, learn the fears or anxieties you may have, understand how much they can steal and how to manipulate you. Be sure to create boundaries and do not share your personal financial information or anything about your private matters. Also, be mindful of the personal information you share about yourself online – adjust your Facebook, or other social media account settings to “private”, and carefully consider any friend requests. Don’t share personal or financial information with anyone you’ve just met online or in-person unless you can verify their identity and have thoroughly researched any financial offers they’ve given you.

Investment offers from unregistered individuals

By law, anyone selling investments in Alberta should generally be registered with the ASC. Check to see if the firm or individual pitching the investment opportunity is registered by checking the Canadian Securities Administrators’ (CSA) National Registration Search. If the investment offer comes to you from a friend, ask where it originated from and ensure the individual or firm that offered it to your friend is registered. Contact the ASC if you suspect it may be a fraudulent investment or need assistance in confirming registration.

Exclusive offers

Investments promoted as exclusive offers just to you is a clear red flag of fraud. Scam artists often try to take advantage of those interested in investing by promoting opportunities to “get in early,” or claiming that unless you move fast, you are going to miss out on the latest trend or great “opportunity” to make money. Exclusive or time-sensitive offers drive false urgency and prevent you from researching and talking to others about the investment. Investments will always be available, and no credible financial advisor should ever rush you into a decision.

Growing your investor knowledge can help you recognize, avoid and report investment fraud. If you are interested in learning more about how to stay safe and protect yourself from fraud, consider attending a virtual or in-person Fraud Prevention Month event. If you are interested in attending a free event this month, please visit our events page.

If you feel you or someone you care for may be involved in an investment scam, do not let the embarrassment or fear keep you from speaking up. You can contact or file a complaint with the ASC or call us toll-free at 1-877-355-4488.

Three steps to take before downloading a mobile investment app

Investing today has never been more accessible. With the advent of electronic trading platforms in 1992, the proliferation of internet accessibility in the mid-to-late 90s and the growing adoption of mobile devices in the early 2000s, investors now have access to a variety of easy-to-use mobile investment apps.

While these technological advancements have made investing more accessible, investors need to remember to conduct thorough research on any investment app they plan to use. Specifically, investors should consider their fee expectations, service needs and most importantly, if the app is credible and registered. Below are three steps to assess if an investment app is legitimate and suitable for you.


1. Registration is essential, even for investment apps

Not all apps offered through the app marketplace on our mobile devices are credible and such apps can expose you to the risk of fraud. It is important to always to check the registration of any investment advisor, firm or platform to ensure they are working in compliance with regulatory requirements. Securities professionals and firms dealing in securities are required to register with securities regulators, and this requirement extends to the investment apps they offer. Checking registration enables investors to validate that the investment app they plan to use is qualified and permitted to sell securities. Ignoring or skipping this step and using an investment app offered by an unregistered firm may not provide you with any of the typical investor protections that may exist with a registered one.

For those interested in investing in crypto-assets, check the registration of any crypto investment app that will hold custody of your funds or crypto-assets. Not all crypto-assets are deemed securities, but if an investment app holds your financial assets, it’s strongly recommended you only use one that is registered. To verify the registration of an investment app, visit brought to you by the Alberta Securities Commission.


2. Avoid the telltale signs of fraudulent or suspicious investment apps

Unfortunately, the ease and widespread appeal of mobile banking and investment apps is not lost on fraudsters looking to capitalize on eager investors. Fraudsters often create investment apps that imitate legitimate financial institutions and registered investment firms and promote them through online advertising or one-on-one interactions with targets. You can visit the CheckFirst website to learn more about these imitation websites and platforms.  Fraudsters also leverage the considerable market interest in crypto-assets to position their fraudulent investment apps as an easy way to invest in digital coins and crypto projects.

Remember these tips to avoid fraudulent investment apps:

  • Avoid unsolicited offers to download an investment app from those you meet online, like self-promoted experts, new acquaintances or love interests.
  • Check that the investment app you plan to download and use is the correct one offered by a registered financial institution or firm.
  • Be wary of investment apps with limited or broken functionality, spelling mistakes and odd in-app requests like wire transfers.
  • Conduct research online to see what others say about the investment app and if any red flags of fraud are found. Visit to learn what to look for.


3. Understand if the investment app is right for you.

Once you have conducted these steps, it’s important to review the fees and charges of your chosen investment app. Investment apps and platforms offered by financial institutions and firms do not have the same costs or services. Often the fees associated with trading, currency conversions and account maintenance will vary between them. Review the fee structures and the services offered and choose one that best fits your investing style, needs and expectations.

Investment apps have ushered in a new era of convenience for investors but you should still take your time to review which option is the best for you. Before you hit the download button, remember these steps to help you find a suitable and registered app for you.

Developing the right mindset and processes to invest wisely and avoid fraud

For any investor, novice or experienced alike, there can be pitfalls and challenges that potentially lead you to making unsuitable investments.  These pitfalls include cognitive biases, poor planning, and even missing the red flags of fraud. To help you recognize these pitfalls and define sound practices and behaviours that will help you improve your approach to investing, consider the following core principles.

Behaviour and mindset – Investing is not just the act of buying or selling investments. It is also about your mindset and processes. Over confidence, anxiety, and the fear of missing out can lead you to jump into inappropriate investments that are tied to hot trends and new innovations, or fall prey to fraudulent or misguided get rich quick schemes. The best way to avoid these challenges is to refine your processes.  Start by developing a financial plan and goals before you actually make that first investment. Your plan doesn’t have to be complicated, but by having your goals laid out can help you maintain your focus and avoid the noise and distractions in the market. For investors that recognize that their emotional discipline may not be strong enough to avoid these traps, the assistance of registered investment professionals may be needed. Utilizing the services of a registered financial planner or financial advisor may provide the dedicated service, and peace of mind, to help you choose the suitable investments that will help you achieve your financial goals.

Investment literacy and fraud knowledge – To invest successfully, start by developing your understanding of securities, in addition to investing principles and strategies. As you build your knowledge and your portfolio, you may want to explore more advanced investments like exempt market securities, options trading or even crypto assets. Recognize the limitations of your investment knowledge and consider taking time to talk to registered investment professionals and assess what new investment opportunities might fit best within your financial plan and risk tolerance (your ability and willingness to take risk with your money).

While knowing the inherent risks to investments is essential, understanding and recognizing the risks of fraud and scams is just as important. A recent study conducted by the Alberta Securities Commission (ASC) found that nearly half of Albertans have been approached by what they felt was possibly a fraudulent investment opportunity. Some of the key signs of fraud include promises of high return rates with little to no risk, exclusive or time-sensitive investment offers, offshore and tax-free investments, and insider tips. Understanding these signs and the situations and scenarios in which they can be presented can help you better safeguard your money and assets. To learn more about investment scams and how to recognize, avoid and report them, investors should review the red flags and scams sections of, brought to you by the Alberta Securities Commission.

Proactive measures – By taking a few proactive steps you can help reduce the chances of your portfolio underperforming, and prevent you from taking on unsuitable investments and falling for fraud. Some suggested steps include thoroughly researching the legitimacy and suitability of investments before investing and regularly monitoring the performance of your investments and your portfolio as a whole. By taking the time to do this, you can better validate new investment opportunities and ensure your existing investments are tracking towards your goals.

In addition to these proactive measures, one of the most important steps you can take before investing with any financial advisor, firm or brokerage, is to conduct the necessary due diligence. Generally speaking, financial advisors, firms, and brokerages must be registered to offer you securities. By checking registration at, you can ensure you are working with registered professionals and businesses that are compliant with securities law before you hand over your money.

Investing wisely may seem complicated, but following these core principles as part of your investing process will lead to a more successful and enjoyable journey and help you avoid common mistakes and fraud.

2021 Top Investment Risks

The year 2020 will long be remembered for its challenges. Global crises, like the COVID-19 pandemic, can create great investment opportunities, but can also create emotional and stressful situations that are often exploited by fraudsters looking to scam you out of your hard-earned money. As you consider your financial planning for the year ahead, it’s important that you research any investment to ensure it’s right for you and have the information necessary to protect yourself from the common tricks of scam artists.

To inform and help empower you to make the right investment choices and to protect yourself, the Alberta Securities Commission (ASC) released its list of the top investment risks and possible scams to look out for in 2021. This list is based on investor complaints, ongoing investigations and current enforcement trends.

1. Investments related to COVID-19

A common scam is a pump and dump scheme, where fraudsters promote the opportunity to invest in new products or services to (in the case of COVID-19) aid in the battle against the pandemic. In reality, their claims are false and misleading. After they have heavily promoted (“pumped”) the “opportunity” and the stock prices get artificially inflated, the fraudsters “dump” their stock at the high price, leaving investors with nothing once the truth is revealed and the price of the stock falls dramatically. When investing, do your own homework and carefully research the company and the investment. Make sure you are comfortable with the risk associated with the investment you are considering.

2. New and emerging industries

New and emerging trends/industries make it easier for fraudsters to build investment scams and promote them with false information. There is usually limited information surrounding emerging industries and plenty of hype and excitement for their future potential. So while the new industry may be legitimate, be wary of anyone offering you an investment that seems to have vague or confusing details and sounds too good to be true.

3. Great expectations

Be wary of high-risk investment opportunities, especially if they promise high returns resulting from a proposed deal involving a letter of intent. Proposed deals can fall through, so if it’s being promoted as a sure thing, you should be wary. Before you invest, research the company, the deal and the parties involved. Even if it’s not fraudulent, make sure you’re comfortable with the risks associated with the investment.

4. Affinity fraud

Affinity fraud occurs when victims are introduced to scams by someone they know, such as family members, friends or co-workers. Fraudsters often target ethnic communities, religious organizations, social clubs or professional groups. They pretend to be part of the community and take advantage of the trust and relationships that exist within. They often flaunt their success or wealth and use unsuspecting people to promote the scam to others who trust them. Even if you trust the person encouraging you to invest, protect yourself by researching the person and/or company selling the investment, and make sure they are registered to sell it.

5. Non-registered people selling investments

Generally anyone selling investments in Alberta must be registered with the ASC and lack of registration is a key red flag of fraud. Be sure to check the registration of any adviser or organization and be wary of anyone who tells you that registration isn’t required for the products being offered.

6. Fraudulent ads to work from home as a day trader

Ads that claim you can make good money by working from home as a day trader are popping up more frequently. They say no experience is necessary and all you need to do is pay a fee for the training. However, often, the firms offering these services are not legitimate and the goal is to steal the money you paid as a “fee”. It’s important to remember that, to trade securities, you need to be registered. Also, trading stocks or foreign-exchange is inherently high-risk and complicated.

Protect yourself in 2021. Do your research. Keep an eye open for the red flags of fraud and report any suspicious investments to the ASC’s public inquiries office. The free resources on will help you stay informed, and the new Fraudster’s Playbook “Don’t be Fooled by Fraud” outlines steps that scam artist take so you can recognize and avoid them.

Keeping your money safe while investing

Investing can be part of a healthy financial future, enabling you to grow your money for retirement and financial goals like vacations or your child’s education costs. Making sure any investment opportunity fits in your financial plan or goals is important.  So is protecting yourself from market manipulation or investment fraud.

In a recent study by the Alberta Securities Commission (ASC), 1 in 4 Albertans believed they were approached with a possible fraudulent investment. As COVID-19 continues to affect our lives, associated scams have emerged as fraudsters try to exploit the crisis to profit from Albertan’s fears and misinformation. While the look of a scam may vary, fraudsters follow a series of steps that are easy to identify if you know what to look for. To understand those seven steps, the ASC created a new resource entitled “Don’t be fooled by fraud”.  It outlines the steps fraudster’s take, in addition to providing information on how to avoid a scam and protect yourself.

Step One:  Identifying a potential victim

A fraudster’s first step is to identify targets. They leverage current events like a pandemic or economic downturn and source vulnerable investors with common anxieties or fears about their money.

Step Two: Befriend and earn trust

Once fraudsters have found suitable targets, they move quickly to cultivate friendships and gain trust. They often do this through community groups, organizations, online groups and through your friends or family to establish themselves as a reliable resource and authority.

Step Three: Showcase the benefits of investing

As the targets become trusting, the fraudster will flaunt their wealth and success to establish credibility. They will casually mention the investment opportunity that brought them this wealth, telling them that it came at little to no risk.

Step Four: Offer the investment

With the potential target’s trust in place and the perceived credibility of his investor savviness solidified, fraudsters move fast to offer the “investment opportunity”. To ensure targets quickly buy-in and do little or no research, they will sell it as an exclusive or time-sensitive offer, private deal and promise high returns with little to no risk.

Step Five: Receiving money for the investment

Leading up to receiving money, fraudsters will inundate targets frequently with communication, provide confusing and complex paperwork to establish legitimacy, and highlight the urgency of buying-in as soon as possible.

Step Six: Disappear (the Ghosting Act)

Once the target “invests”, fraudsters reassure the victim of the investment opportunity and even request more funds for a bigger payout. Following this, they will delay access to funds and eventually disappear and ignore the target when the scam can no longer be hidden.

Step Seven: Target the victim again ( the Recovery Act)

Fraudsters are hardly finished once a scam is complete. They will often sell the victim’s information to another fraudster or criminal organization, which will contact the victim acting as a credible agency that can reclaim their investment for a fee. This is ultimately another scam in which the victim is robbed again in their attempts to get their money back.

Understanding these seven steps is important so that you can recognize unsafe situations you or someone you know could be in. To learn more, read the fraudsters playbook entitled “Don’t be fooled by fraud”, accessible for free at While visiting checkfirst, check out the other information and resources designed to help you increase your investing knowledge and keep your money safe when considering any investment.

Connecting with the seniors in your life about investment fraud

Current pandemic measures have dramatically changed how we interact with our friends and family. While physical distancing affects everyone, seniors are experiencing increased isolation and loneliness as friends and family are unable to visit in person.

Unfortunately, fraudsters see this as a prime opportunity to become a “trusted” friend in a senior’s life so they can take advantage of them or their retirement nest egg through fraudulent scams or unsuitable investments. Scammers use a variety of methods to target seniors, including emails, mail, phone calls and even in-home visits.

The danger of financial abuse is real. In a 2020 study conducted by the Alberta Securities Commission one third of Albertans 55-plus believe they’ve been approached with a potentially fraudulent investment scam through a co-worker, family member, friend or even a member from a club, group or organization they belong to.

Fraudsters use a variety of tactics to defraud seniors, including:

  • Leveraging their trust and politeness to establish friendships quickly.
  • Instilling fear that they will run out of money in retirement and burden their family.
  • Exploiting current events like the pandemic to offer fake investments in cures and new technologies.
  • Using high-pressure sales tactics.
  • Promising high returns with little or no risk and exclusive opportunities.
  • Unsolicited investment opportunities and friend requests through Facebook and social media.

How can you help protect seniors in your life from investment fraud?

You can help protect your friends and family from investment fraud with open communication about their daily lives and financial decisions. Calling them routinely can help reduce social isolation and disrupt any suspicious activity that might be happening. If you believe someone you know might be at risk, be proactive and do the following:

  • Bring up the topic of investment fraud. Share the dangers of investment fraud during this time and send them information specifically created for seniors.
  • Listen and be engaged. Be open to discussing issues or topics regarding their finances and help them check the registration and history of any individual or firm offering them an investment opportunity.
  • Pay attention to their social circles. Have they been mentioning a new friend or someone who has started providing them advice, financial or otherwise? Ask questions respectfully and monitor any ongoing suspicious activities.


If you suspect you or someone in your life may be involved in a potentially fraudulent investment scheme find help and more information at




Scams exploiting fears and isolation of older Albertans amid COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted lives around the world, including families across Alberta and especially seniors, who are isolated from support groups. The recent volatility of the markets, coupled with potentially lost retirement savings and social isolation, has created an environment of fear, uncertainty and vulnerability. Unfortunately, this is exactly the environment that scam artists prey upon.

As COVID-19 continues to spread, associated scams are emerging as scam artists exploit the crisis to profit from people’s fears, uncertainties and misinformation.

There are many types of fraud popping up during COVID-19. One example includes phishing and malware scams where scammers pose as governmental agencies, national or global health authorities, and send phishing emails or texts designed to trick people into downloading malware or providing personal identification and financial information. They can appear to be real, but err on the side of caution and think carefully before providing anyone with this information.

Another common scam are pump-and-dump schemes involving publicly traded small “shell” companies. Scam artists will ‘pump’ up the company’s value by enticing investors to purchase stock with inflated or false claims, then quickly ‘dump’ their stock before the hype ends. This results in a substantial payout for the scam artist while all the remaining investors lose their money. Often pump-and-dump schemes can be related to companies claiming to have products or services that will prevent, detect or cure COVID-19 infection. Be cautious of any claims that a company has a solution to help stop the coronavirus outbreak.

There are multiple ways that scam artists will target an individual. According to a 2020 study conducted by the Alberta Securities Commission (ASC), some of the most common ways Albertans 55+ years of age believed they were approached with a potentially fraudulent investment scam were:

  • Through a friend, neighbour, co-worker or family member, or from a member of a club, group or organization they belong to (32%)
  • By a stranger calling over the telephone (22%)
  • From email spam (23%)

When considering investing in any opportunity, always read the fine print and research the investment – no matter how the opportunity was presented to you. Keep in mind that fraudsters often exploit the latest crisis with the COVID-19 outbreak being no different. Don’t be lured in by promises of easy returns – more likely you’ll be asked for money upfront that you’ll never see again. Also remember that anyone selling investments needs to be registered with provincial securities regulators to do so. For more information on how to recognize and avoid these scams and to check the registration of any individual or firm offering you an investment opportunity, visit the Alberta Securities Commission’s website:


Five tips to avoid the dangers of affinity fraud

Many don’t realize this, but one in four Albertans are approached with fraudulent investment opportunities through friends and family – people we trust. According to the Alberta Securities Commission (ASC),  this type of scam is called affinity fraud and almost always involves either a fake investment or one where the scammer lies about the critical details, such as the risk of losing money or where the money is going. With affinity fraud, scam artists often target organized groups such as community clubs, religious organizations, immigrant communities, seniors’ homes and professional associations.

While members of these groups are sometimes fully aware of their intent to deceive, other times they are unknowingly involved. And often, you may not realize that what you are putting your money into is considered a ‘security’. Fraudulent investments take on many forms –  from shares to promissory notes, units, trades, or some other creative monetary term. No matter what it is called, securities laws apply whenever you are giving someone money with the expectation of a return or payment. It is critical, therefore, that you know how to protect yourself from investment fraud no matter the source.

This type of fraud is identifiable and avoidable. By following this checklist, you could help to save yourself or a loved one time, money and heartache:


Never rely solely on referrals from friends and family members.

If they have failed to do their research and invested in a scam, they may unknowingly lead you down the same path.

If it sounds too good to be true, it is.

Don’t be drawn in by promises of spectacular returns and low risk; these are classic warning signs of fraud.

Don’t be pressured into making a decision.

Take your time to understand the business and the risks involved. Scam artists will pressure you into making a quick decision. They are doing so to exploit your fear of missing out on a “valuable” and “time-sensitive opportunity” — and to limit the amount of research you conduct.

Be wary of investments offering little information.

If you are being offered an investment and the promoter “doesn’t have time” to provide details or you are told to keep the opportunity confidential, this could be a warning sign.

Check the salesperson’s background.

Anyone offering securities in Alberta generally must be registered with the ASC. The ASC can also tell you if the salesperson has ever been subject to enforcement action.


Many people who fall victim to affinity fraud fail to report it because they feel ashamed, embarrassed or want to protect their friend or loved one. This enables other people to fall victim to the same scam and makes prevention difficult. If you suspect you or someone you know has been approached with a potentially fraudulent investment scheme, you can find help and more information about the red flags of investment fraud at or contact the ASC at 1-877-355-4488.


STOP! Steps to take before saying yes to an investment

When it comes to new investment opportunities, it’s hard not to be excited about the potential of significant returns on your money. While it’s ok to be excited, researching the investment and the individual or firm offering it is crucial to avoiding painful and avoidable losses.

In a recent Investor study commissioned by the Alberta Securities Commission, it was noted that many Albertans spend more time researching cars and vacations than researching investments. Only 47% of Albertans did two or more hours of research on their last investment versus 69% with two+ hours of research on their last vacation, and 79% the last time they bought a car. Considering your hard-earned money is at stake, spending more time investigating your investment opportunities is worth its weight in gold.

You can make wise investment decisions and, more importantly, protect yourself from fraud by following these easy steps:

1) Check if your financial adviser or firm is registered

Verifying that the registration of the individual or firm offering it to you is legitimate is an essential first step when considering any investment opportunity. By law, most security industry professionals and firms are required to register with the securities regulator in each province or territory they do business in. Registration helps protect investors like you from investment fraud as it signifies that the person or firm is recognized as being properly qualified and compliant with investor protection laws.

But remember, while registration can tell you if an individual or firm can offer and sell investments, they cannot guarantee their performance or success with your money.

2) Review the investment against your financial plan

When buying a vehicle, there are many different factors to consider from the number of passengers it can hold to the cost of maintenance and safety. Investments are no different and no one investment is suitable for everyone.

Create or review your financial plan that maps out what you’re looking to achieve with your investments. Saving for retirement? Investing for a down payment on a home? Along with your risk tolerance and willingness (the amount of money you are able and comfortable potentially losing ), your future goals and their associated timelines are all relevant details to consider before saying yes to any investment opportunity.

3) Understand what you’re investing in

Diversifying your investment portfolio across different industries is a great strategy to try and minimize any potential losses. When it comes to choosing investments, it is also critical to conduct research to understand the market, company, business and investment opportunity, and ensure it is credible. This is especially important in the fast-moving and volatile technology industry and emerging industries like cannabis and cryptocurrencies.

Conducting research also helps protect yourself from fraud. Scam artists often rely on investing trends to grab your interest and try to dissuade you from doing research that will quickly show the scam for what it is.

4) Know where to go for help

When it comes to investments, it is beneficial to walk through it with someone who is not involved. Lawyers and advisers can help you review the opportunity and identify details you may have missed, including unsatisfactory fees and even potential fraud.

A clear red flag of fraud is if you’re told to keep an investment opportunity secret. Scam artists use this tactic with the hopes that no one will call out anything suspicious. No credible adviser or firm should ever encourage this; if this situation happens to you, contact the Alberta Securities Commission and discuss it with a specialist.

Don’t let expectations of a great return gloss over the risks of any investment. Just as you take the time to thoroughly review a new car to ensure it’s not a lemon or plan the activities you want to do on your upcoming vacation, investments need the backing of proper research and planning to avoid potential negative results. With these four steps, you can make safe, suitable and informed investment decisions for your future.