NASAA Task Force Monitoring Internet for Fraud Following Outbreak of Ebola-Related Website Names
WASHINGTON (October 29, 2014) – Following the outbreak of Ebola in western Africa and its appearance in North America, the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) today cautioned investors to beware of opportunistic Internet-based investment schemes related to the disease.
“Past experience tells us that periods of uncertainty or fear are prime time for con artist looking to make a quick score,” said William Beatty, NASAA President and Washington Securities Director. “Investors should approach with caution any unsolicited Ebola-related investment opportunities, especially those received through the Internet.”
Beatty said an analysis of Internet domain names by state and Canadian securities regulators found nearly 1,200 domains with “Ebola” in their name have been registered with top-level domains, such as .com, .net, .org since April 2014. About 1,000 of those registration have occurred since July, as awareness of the crisis spread. Of these sites, 184 were identified by NASAA’s Enforcement Technology project group as suspicious.
“Our system identified a number of sites that may be suspect,” said Jake van der Laan, Director of Enforcement for the New Brunswick Financial and Consumer Services Commission and chair of NASAA’s Enforcement Technology project group. “Although we have not investigated any of these sites, a review of domain names indicates that there certainly appear to be those intent on raising Ebola-related funds or otherwise trying to leverage the crisis for financial gain.”
Van der Laan said a review of Ebola-related domain names found several with the words “fund,” “invest,” “stock,” or “futures” in their titles. For example, the following domain names have been registered: hotebolastocks.com; bestebolastocks.com; ebolafutures.com; ebolainvesting.com; ebolaoutbreakstocks.com; ebolastocks.com; and fundsforebola.com.
Most of the domain names are “parked” and have no content. “This indicates that either someone has bought the domain hoping to resell it, or the content is not ready yet,” van der Laan said.
Beatty reminded investors to use common sense. “Pie in the sky promises of quick wealth generally are red flags signaling fraud ahead,” he said. He urged individuals to contact their state or provincial securities regulator to determine if both the promoter of the investment and the investment itself are licensed and registered. If not, they may be operating illegally. Contact information is available on NASAA’s website here.
NASAA, the oldest international organization devoted to investor protection. NASAA’s membership consists of the securities administrators in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the provinces and territories of Canada, and Mexico.
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