The North American Securities Administrators Association’s COVID-19 Enforcement Task Force said Wednesday that it has detected 244 pandemic-related schemes and taken action to disrupt 220 of them.
The task force, formed in April and led by NASAA’s Enforcement Section and Enforcement Technology Project Group, announced during a Zoom cast that to date, state and provincial securities investigators have said the schemes to defraud investors and consumers include 154 investment-related schemes and 90 non-investment schemes.
Task force members reported Wednesday that they’ve taken 220 distinct actions via administrative, cease-and-desist orders, referrals to other regulators and to social media and hosting companies.
The task force is using online investigative techniques to identify websites and social media posts that may be offering or promoting fraudulent offerings, investment frauds or improper unregistered regulated activities.
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As of April 20, the task force has identified up to 200,000 coronavirus-related domains, with most of the domains appearing to have been created since the beginning of 2020.
“Con artists follow the headlines, so it should be of no surprise that COVID-cons are targeting investors,” said Christopher Gerold, NASAA president and chief of the New Jersey Bureau of Securities. “Some of these investors are just seeking greater returns while others may have lost a job and are worried about market volatility and making ends meet. We are putting con artists on notice that state and provincial securities regulators are taking swift and effective action to protect investors from their schemes.”
The task force includes 111 investigators representing 44 jurisdictions in the United States, Canada and Mexico.