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Updated Investor Alert: SEC Warns of Government Impersonators Demanding Money

08/05/2015

SEC staff is issuing this updated Investor Alert because we are aware of fraudulent communications, including official looking documents such as bogus subpoenas, that purport to be from the Securities and Exchange Commission demanding money for fictitious securities law violations.  

The SEC does not seek money from any person or entity as a penalty or disgorgement for alleged wrongdoing outside of its formal Enforcement process.  The SEC would only begin seeking money at the end of that Enforcement process, and only if a finder of fact held the person liable for the violation after the person had the opportunity to contest the charges or to settle the matter.  As with past SEC impersonator scams, it is important to note that the SEC does not endorse investment offers, assist in the purchase or sale of securities, or participate in money transfers.  SEC staff will not, for example, contact individuals by telephone or email to:

  • seek assistance with a fund transfer;
  • forward investment offers to them;
  • advise individuals that they own certain securities;
  • tell investors that they are eligible to receive disbursements from an investor claims fund or class action settlement; or
  • offer grants or other financial assistance (especially for an upfront fee).

The staff of the SEC does not make these types of unsolicited communications, including emails or telephone calls asking for detailed personal and financial information, such as shareholdings and PIN numbers.  If you receive a telephone call or email from someone claiming to be from the SEC (or another government agency), always verify the person’s identity.  Use the SEC’s personnel locator, (202) 551-6000, to verify whether the caller is an SEC staff member and to speak with him or her directly.  In addition, you can call the SEC at (800) SEC-0330 for general information, including information about SEC enforcement actions and any investor claims funds.  Our online Question Form is another way you can ask us about a solicitation.

If you have been contacted by someone misrepresenting himself as an SEC staff member, please let us know by either calling us or submitting a Complaint Form.  You may also report the incident to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at www.ic3.gov.

It’s not hard to figure out who the real regulators are and how you can contact them.  You’ll find a list of international securities regulators on the website of the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) and a directory of state and provincial regulators in Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. on the website of the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA).  If someone encourages you to verify information about a deal with an entity that doesn't appear on these lists, you should be wary.

For additional tips on investing wisely and avoiding fraud, please visit the following web pages on the SEC’s website and Investor.gov:

Updated Investor Alert: SEC Warns of Government Impersonators (May 2015)

Updated Investor Alert:  Beware of Companies Using the SEC Seal (April 2015)

Updated Investor Alert: Investors Beware of Government Impersonators (April 2013)

Updated Investor Alert: Investors Beware of Government Impersonators (November 2012)

Investor Alert: Investors Beware of Government Impersonators (February 2012)

Investor Alert: Investors Beware of Government Impersonators (October 2010)

Investor Alert: SEC Warns of Government Impersonators (April 2010)

Advance Fee Fraud Schemes

PAUSE List of Fictitious Governmental Agencies and International Organizations Associated with Soliciting Entities

Worthless Stock: How to Avoid Doubling Your Losses

Fake Seals and Phony Numbers: How Fraudsters Try to Look Legit

FTC Identity Theft Site


The Office of Investor Education and Advocacy has provided this information as a service to investors.  It is neither a legal interpretation nor a statement of SEC policy.  If you have questions concerning the meaning or application of a particular law or rule, please consult with an attorney who specializes in securities law.