ALERT: International Con Artists Target Madoff Victims; Regulatory Agencies, Receiver In Cook/Kiley Ponzi Case Go On Guard For Copycats
An individual or group of individuals believed to be operating internationally created a website that mimicked the website of the U.S. Securities Investor Protection Corp. (SIPC) “in an apparent attempt to target [Bernard] Madoff victims” in a fraud scheme, SIPC said.
SIPC and the SEC issued warnings immediately, as did the court-appointed receiver in the alleged Trevor Cook/Pat Kiley Ponzi scheme in Minnesota. There is no suggestion that a similar effort is under way by con artists to fleece Cook/Kiley investors, but R.J. Zayed, the receiver in the Cook/Kiley case brought by the SEC and the CFTC, urged Cook/Kiley investors to pay attention.
“You should use caution when giving personal information to third parties,” Zayed said on the receivership website. “Before giving anyone your information you should verify that the agency you are communicating with exists and that the individual (or system) purporting to represent that agency actually does so.”
SIPC maintains a special reserve fund mandated by Congress to protect the customers of insolvent brokerage firms such as Madoff’s. A scam site appeared online that used SIPC’s initials in its name, preceded by the letter “I” and a hypen, to form the domain name “I-SIPC.com.”
The site purported to be the “International Securities Investor Protection Corporation.”
Visitors to the bogus domain were told that the purported organization “collaborated with Interpol to recover $1.3 billion in Madoff money from a hideout in Malaysia,” SIPC said.
Meanwhile, visitors were shown “a photo of a huge stack of U.S. currency,” SIPC said, noting a bogus “testimonial” from a purported Madoff victim who was happy with the fraudulent entity appeared on the site.
The I-SIPC.com domain listed a registration address in Nigeria and was registered on Aug. 20, 2009, according to the registration data. It is unclear if the site was registered by a Nigerian or a person posing as a Nigerian. The site appears to be using shared hosting with 597 other domains on the same server, according to web records.
Nigeria has an international reputation for online fraud, and some scammers — recognizing Nigeria’s reputation — have posed as Nigerians to perpetrate fraud and to cover their tracks. Such scammers could be located anywhere in the world.
For its part, the SEC called the I-SIPC.com site a “fictitious entity.”
“The ‘ISIPC’ Web site bears a certain likeness to the Securities Investor Protection Corporation’s (SIPC) Web site, mimicking its look, feel, and content in an attempt to achieve an aura of authenticity with Madoff victims,” the SEC said. “The ‘ISPIC’ Web site claims to partner with several governments including the United States, and links to actual government Web sites to signify an affiliation. ‘ISIPC’ also falsely claims to be sponsored by the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank.”
SIPC said it was investigating misuse of its trademark and “will seek to have the violator prosecuted to the extent the law allows.”
“We know from information provided to us by individuals that this bogus group is already attempting to obtain funds and confidential financial information from investors in the U.S.,” said SIPC President Stephen Harbeck.
“SIPC wants to be as clear as possible that Madoff victims and other investors should not share any personal financial information via this Web site or rely upon it as an information source. We intend to use every available means to shut down this illicit operation.”
The bogus site now is loading a message that says, “THIS SITE IS TEMPORALLY CLOSED.”
“Investors who lose money in widely publicized schemes are often targeted by con artists looking to cash in on the victim’s desire to recover losses,” said Lori Schock, director of the SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy. “Victims of fraudulent schemes should be aware that such refund schemes commonly exist, and can be perpetrated through copycat Web sites that appear similar to those of actual regulators or other organizations.”