SIPC WARNS INVESTORS OF NEW IDENTIFY THEFT "PHISHING" SCHEME INVOLVING PHONY REQUEST FOR CONFIDENTIAL FINANCIAL INFORMATION
WASHINGTON, D.C., July 21, 2008 – The Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), which maintains a special reserve fund authorized by Congress to help investors at failed brokerage firms, today cautioned investors about a new identity theft scam designed to extract confidential information and cash from unwary individuals.
SIPC officials said they are investigating phony emails sent by a supposed "senior investment advisor" claiming to act for an actual SIPC member. In fact, the individual whose name appears in the emails has nothing to do with the scheme, and the actual brokerage firm named is likewise not involved in the fraudulent solicitation. The email asserts that the brokerage firm is acting on behalf of SIPC, in order to return funds to the investor targeted by the email.
The scheme involves an "insurance investment claim" supposedly to be made through the brokerage firm on behalf of SIPC. In order to get the information supposedly needed to file the claim, the bogus email sender includes a fake SIPC "Beneficiary Information for Automatic Deposit of Payment" form that requires information that could be used to directly withdraw funds from an investor’s accounts. The phony form even includes a false detailed form routing number: "SIPC 4531/09 (4-00)."
SIPC President Stephen Harbeck said: "This is a scam – pure and simple. It does not relate to any actual liquidation of a brokerage firm. There is no address provided for correspondence. There is no reference to a specific brokerage firm failure. No one should provide the kind of personal information asked for in this case without first being 100 percent sure that it is coming from a valid entity."
Investor reports about e-mails that may have been falsely sent in the name of SIPC should be directed to email@example.com. Investors receiving any such suspicious e-mails are encouraged to forward the original e-mail to SIPC. To learn more about how SIPC brokerage account liquidations actually work, see "The Investor's Guide to Brokerage Firm Liquidations" on the Web.
This is at least the fourth identity theft scheme to target SIPC and investors since 2003.
SIPC warned the public on January 29, 2004, that its Web site at http://www.sipc.org/ had been copied as a "look-alike" Web site at another URL as part of the scheme of a nonexistent brokerage firm. That Web site has since been taken down. On December 11, 2003, SIPC cautioned the public about "brokerage identity theft" schemes, under which con artists falsely pose on the Web as authentic brokerage firms that are members of the SIPC, and then persuade unwary investors to engage in transactions. Brokerage identity theft victims often are told to check the membership database on SIPC's Web site, in order to "prove" that the firm is a SIPC member, when in fact the illicit promoters have simply stolen the identity of a real SIPC member.
The Securities Investor Protection Corporation is the U.S. investor's first line of defense in the event a brokerage firm fails owing customer cash and securities that are missing from customer accounts. From the time Congress created it in 1970 through December 2006, SIPC has advanced $505 million in order to make possible the recovery of $15.7 billion in assets for an estimated 626,000 investors. Although not every investor is protected by SIPC, SIPC estimates that no fewer than 99 percent of persons who are eligible have been made whole in the failed brokerage firm cases that it has handled to date.
SIPC either acts as trustee or works with an independent court-appointed trustee in a brokerage insolvency case to recover funds. The statute that created SIPC provides that customers of a failed brokerage firm receive all non-negotiable securities that are already registered in their names or in the process of being registered. At the same time, funds from the SIPC reserve are available to satisfy the remaining claims of each customer up to a maximum of $500,000. This figure includes a maximum of $100,000 on claims for cash.
MEDIA CONTACT: Ailis Aaron Wolf, for SIPC, +1 (703) 276-3265, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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