We are writing to you to let you know that global regulators and law enforcement agencies have noted an increasing trend where investors are being targeted by scammers trying to manipulate unwary investors into purchasing stock in certain companies which ultimately result in profits for the scammer and large losses for the investor. These scams are often perpetrated via social media. The scammers work to establish a relationship of trust (sometimes under the pretext of friendship or romance, or a claim that they are a famous investment advisor) and may encourage the investor to join an investment group on a social media platform or chat app, where investment advice is disseminated. The scammers then tell the investor to purchase shares in specific companies at inflated prices based on some non-public information or connection that the scammer claims to have with the company or its management. Typically, the scammers encourage investors to purchase thinly traded stocks with low market capitalization (including “penny” stocks), which are easier for the scammers to manipulate and profit at the expense of the investor. Once the investors follow the scammer’s instructions and inadvertently push up the price of the stock by buying shares, the scammer can then sell their own large holdings which can then dramatically reduce the price of the company’s shares. This type of scam is known as a pump-and-dump or ramp-and-dump scam. This can result in large losses for the investors.
FINRA recently explained this trend in an Investor Alert titled, "Social Media ‘Investment Group’ Imposter Scams on the Rise," available here.
We encourage you to please take the time to read and understand the following key points:
In the virtual world, fraudsters can easily disguise themselves. Be skeptical of the identities of anyone you meet online, particularly if they claim to be an investment advisor or celebrity. Be especially vigilant when offered unsolicited investment advice by online “friends.”
Pay attention to warning signs
Below are some red flags that may be signs of a scam, including ramp-and-dump scams:
Unsolicited investment advice.
Substantial share price increase without positive news about the company.
Suggestions to purchase small cap stock with low liquidity, especially if many of the shares are held by a small group.
Your online “friend” asks you to send a screenshot of your trading record.
Do your homework
Many of the stocks recommended by the operators of these scams were overvalued and there was no obvious justification for their prices to surge. Investors are strongly advised to do their own homework on a company before investing in it, or seek independent advice from licensed investment advisors.
Be wary of investments that sound too good to be true
If an investment sounds too good to be true, it often is. Remember that there is no such thing as a low-risk investment with high guaranteed returns—a claim frequently used by fraudsters to entice unwary investors by manipulating their fear of missing an opportunity.
Please also remember that Interactive Brokers does not provide investment advice. Be wary of anyone stating otherwise.