The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has produced a website advertising a scam initial coin offering (ICO), in an effort to educate the populace on how to identify such fraudulent websites.
In a Wednesday press release, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton discussed the intent behind the initiative. While acknowledging the rapid growth in the number of ICOs, he explained a need to help give investors the tools they require to recognize fraudulent sites.
”We embrace new technologies, but we also want investors to see what fraud looks like, so we built this educational site with many of the classic warning signs of fraud… I encourage investors to do their diligence and ask questions,”
The mock ICO website advertises the fictitious Howeycoin token, reading: ”Howeycoin is the newest and only coin offering that captures the magic of coin trading profits AND the excitement and guaranteed returns of the travel industry. Howeycoins will partner with all segments of the travel industry (air, hotel, car rental, and luxury segments), earning coins you can trade for profit instead of points.”
Information provided on the website looks much like that supplied during a genuine ICO, with statements such as “We anticipate OVER 1% daily returns, with DOUBLE 2% returns on Tier 1 investors in pre-ICO stage secured purchases.”
SEC Chief Council Owen Donley noted the ease at which scammers can utilize convoluted jargon to lure individuals into false investments, but pointed out significant red flags that can indicate fraud.
By clicking on the internal website links, visitors are directed to an SEC site that notifies them of the truthful nature of the website.
The SEC notice explains: ”Our bogus site is a mash-up of a number of different things we’ve seen – any particular fraud may be harder to spot than the red flags here. Here are some of the signs of fraud that are on the Howeycoins site – we hope reviewing these may help you recognize a real fraud in the future!”
Targetting of ICOs
There is certainly an emphasis currently placed on targetting ICOs and cryptocurrency related scams, when in fact around less than 1% of Bitcoin-related transactions have been linked to illicit activities. Although, it is true that several high-profile ICOs have been shut down due to suspected, or convicted fraudulent activity.
While it is certainly necessary to regulate ICOs to ensure they are providing the services and tokens that they are advertising, the current enforcement of numerous subpoenas by the SEC does indicate an arguably overzealous approach towards cryptocurrency start-ups when compared to how mainstream financial scams are currently handled.
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