“Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” is an old adage. While there’s no shame in being the victim of a scam, nobody wants to be a victim twice. That’s why the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is warning consumers about a government imposter scam that targets people who’ve already been victims of fraud.
What’s happening? Scammers are pretending to be from the SEC. They reach out to you if you’ve already lost money from an investment fraud. They say that they’ll help you recover your losses for a fee. The scammers may copy the SEC seal or forge signatures of SEC officials, to try to make their messages look official. They may even link to the SEC’s website or make messages appear to come from SEC email accounts.
In another twist on the scam, these imposters claim that they’ll help you get money from an SEC action or a class action settlement – if you pay them a legal fee. Don’t be fooled. The government will never ask you to pay a fee to receive money from a settlement.
If you get a message that looks like it’s from the SEC, what should you do? Here are a few tips:
Don’t wire money. Scammers often pressure people into wiring money or putting money on a prepaid debit card. Don’t do it. It’s like sending cash: once you send it, you can’t get it back.
Don’t give the caller your personal or financial information. Never give out or confirm sensitive personal information – like your bank account, credit card, or Social Security number – unless you know who you’re dealing with. If someone has contacted you, then you can’t be sure who they are. Call them at a number you know to be correct.
When in doubt, check it out. If you’re not sure whether a message is really from the SEC, call the SEC’s toll-free investor assistance line at 800-732-0330 or submit a question to the SEC.
For more information on SEC imposters, read the SEC’s Investor Alert. And if you’ve been contacted by someone pretending to be from the SEC, report it to the SEC’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) or call the OIG toll-free at 877-442-0854.
by Lisa Weintraub Schifferle
Attorney, FTC, Division of Consumer & Business Education