Following the outbreak of Ebola in western Africa and its appearance in North America, the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), Corporations, Securities and Commercial Licensing Bureau (CSCL) 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 artists looking to make a quick score,” said LARA Deputy Director Shelly Edgerton. “Investors should approach with caution any unsolicited Ebola-related investment opportunities, especially those received through the Internet.”
According to Edgerton, an analysis of Internet domain names by the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), of which LARA is a member, 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 registrations have occurred since July, as awareness of the crisis spread. Of these sites, 184 were identified by NASAA’s Internet Fraud Investigations project group as suspicious.
Although NASAA has 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.
Edgerton 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, indicating that either someone has purchased the domain hoping to resell it, or the content is not ready yet.
Edgerton reminded investors to use common sense. “Pie in the sky promises of quick wealth generally are red flags signaling fraud ahead,” Edgerton said. She urged individuals to contact CSCL to determine if both the promoter of the investment and the investment itself are licensed and registered. If not, they may be operating illegally.
If you suspect fraud, contact the Michigan Attorney General in Lansing at (517) 373-1110 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact the Corporations, Securities, and Commercial Licensing Bureau, Enforcement Division at (517) 241-9202 or by Fax at (517) 241-9280.
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