TORONTO – The Ontario Securities Commission (OSC), in partnership with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) – Integrated Market Enforcement Team (IMET), is warning the public about fraudulent investment opportunities related to the coronavirus (COVID-19).
The OSC and RCMP-IMET have received reports about companies approaching Ontario investors with claims to have products or services that will prevent, detect or cure COVID-19. At this time, there is still no vaccine or any natural health product that is authorized to treat or protect against COVID-19.
The OSC and RCMP-IMET encourage anyone who is considering buying or selling an investment to first do research or talk to their registered investment advisor.
Additionally, investors should exercise caution if they are approached with aggressive stock promotions, which may make false claims of large profits and baseless stock price projections.
The OSC has also developed a series of fraud alert videos to help investors identify and avoid potential scams related to COVID-19:
- Work-from-home scams: fraudsters are taking advantage of individuals looking for alternative sources of income due to COVID-19 related lay-offs or salary cuts. They offer opportunities to earn high profits at home as a securities or a derivatives trader, without requiring a license or any experience in the financial market.
- Warnings About Your Finances: fraudsters are using the fear of current economic conditions to target individuals, posing as their bank or investment advisor. They may contact individuals with warnings about their investments or finances and request sensitive financial or personal information.
- Pump-and-Dump Scams: fraudsters spread positive, but false, information claiming to have products or services that will prevent, detect or cure COVID-19 that lures many investors to purchase the stock. Fraudsters then quickly “dump” their shares before the hype ends, resulting in a substantial payout for them.
- Fake Government Messages: fraudsters target individuals by posing as government departments or agencies. They may send a text or email related to COVID-19 or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) prompting individuals to click on a link or attachment or provide their personal or financial details.
The OSC’s fraud alert videos and other information related to COVID-19 for investors and consumers can be found on the OSC’s investor hub.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) collects information on fraud and identity theft. They also provide information on past and current scams affecting Canadians. If you or someone you know has been the target of fraud you should report it to your local police and the CAFC.
The RCMP and CAFC have a developed a page with information on how to protect yourself and avoid potential scams related to COVID-19.
For more information on fraud from the CAFC please visit: www.antifraudcentre.ca.
Ontarians who have been approached about a potential investment scam are advised to contact the OSC Inquiries and Contact Centre at 1-877-785-1555 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The mandate of the OSC is to provide protection to investors from unfair, improper or fraudulent practices, to foster fair and efficient capital markets and confidence in the capital markets, and to contribute to the stability of the financial system and the reduction of systemic risk. Investors are urged to check the registration of any persons or company offering an investment opportunity and to review the OSC investor materials available at http://www.osc.gov.on.ca.
The mandate of the IMET program is to investigate serious Criminal Code capital market fraud offences that are of regional or national significance and that threaten investor confidence or economic stability in Canada.