The Securities and Exchange Commission staff recently issued an Investor Alert in response to a number of fraudulent solicitations currently underway that purport to be affiliated with or sponsored by the federal government and legitimate securities regulators. If you are contacted by an organization calling itself the “Chicago Division of Securities,” the “Division of Securities, Chicago Illinois,” the “Federal Division of Securities, New York” or the “New York Securities Division,” be aware that they are not affiliated with the Securities and Exchange Commission and are not legitimate securities regulators. They are scams.

Many government impersonators target investors who have already been victims of fraud. Often, the impersonators will claim to help investors recover their investment-related losses for a substantial fee disguised as some type of tax, deposit, or refundable insurance bond.

A characteristic of some of these fraudulent schemes to deceive and defraud unwary investors is the use of websites and email addresses ending in “.us” or “.org” and containing “.gov” as part of the domain address. In its alert, the SEC indicated that it is not aware of any U.S. government agency that has a website or email address that ENDS in anything other than “.gov,” “.mil,” or “fed.us.” Investors should beware of any website or correspondence purporting to be from a U.S. government agency bearing an email address or website domain that does not end in “.gov,” “.mil,” or “fed.us.”

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. You can call the SEC at (800) SEC-0330 for general information, including information about SEC enforcement actions and any investor claims funds.  The SEC online Question Form is another way you can ask about a solicitation. You can find a directory of legitimate state and provincial regulators in Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. on the website of the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA). A list of international securities regulators is on the website of the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO). Be wary of anyone who claims to work for a securities regulator that is not on these lists.

The SEC receives complaints from investors and others, including foreign securities regulators, about fictitious governmental organizations. In an effort to warn the public about these entities, the SEC maintains a list on its website called Public Alert: Unregistered Soliciting Entities (the PAUSE list). You should be aware that the PAUSE list does not include all fictitious governmental agencies and international organizations. Also, you should understand that the inclusion of a name on this list does not mean that the SEC has concluded that a violation of the U.S. securities laws has occurred.

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At the Fort Lauderdale Law Office of Russell L. Forkey, we represent clients throughout South and Central Florida, including Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Sunrise, Plantation, Coral Springs, Deerfield Beach, Pompano Beach, Delray, Boynton Beach, Hollywood, Lake Worth, Royal Palm Beach, Manalapan, Jupiter, Gulf Stream, Wellington, Fort Pierce, Stuart, Palm City, Jupiter, Miami, Orlando, Maitland, Winter Park, Altamonte Springs, Lake Mary, Heathrow, Melbourne, Palm Bay, Cocoa Beach, Vero Beach, Daytona Beach, Deland, New Smyrna Beach, Ormand Beach, Broward County, Palm Beach County, Dade County, Orange County, Seminole County, Martin County, Brevard County, Indian River County, Volusia County and Monroe County, Florida. The law office of Russell L. Forkey also represents South American, Canadian and other foreign residents that do business with U.S. financial institutions, investment advisors, brokerage and precious metal firms.