The SEC has charged investment adviser Anthony Fields with selling bogus securities on LinkedIn and other social networking sites. The alleged financial fraud has prompted the agency to put out two alerts warning of the risks that advisory firms and investors must contend with in the social media era.
According to the SEC, Fields used social media sites to offer over $500 billion in fake securities. He used Platinum Securities Brokers and Anthony Fields & Associates, which are his two proprietorships, to make numerous fraudulent offerings. He also allegedly provided misleading and untruthful information about Anthony Fields & Associates’ clients, assets under management, and operational history on the company’s Web site and in filings submitted to the Commission. The SEC claims that Fields did not maintain the necessary records and books, gave the impression that he was a broker-dealer even though he is not SEC-registered, and failed to implement appropriate compliance procedures and policies.
With retail investors turning to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other online networks to get information about investing, the risks of becoming exposed to fraud are growing. The SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy is offering investors a number of tips to avoid financial scams online, including:
• Be careful of unsolicited investment opportunities-especially from someone you don’t know.
• Be wary of any investment opportunity that sounds too good to be true.
• Watch out for “guaranteed returns” – there is no such thing.
• Consider it a “red flag” if you experience any pressure to invest or buy immediately.
• Watch out for affinity scams, which usually target group members.
• Make sure that your privacy is always protected online.
• Ask lots of questions about any investment opportunity.
• Do your due diligence.
• Don’t provide your Social Security number, any account information, or other sensitive data to or on social media Web site.
• Watch out for “friend” requests from financial service providers that you don’t know-remember, once you let them “in,” you are giving them access.
• Pick a solid password and don’t use the same one for multiple accounts.
• Deactivate file sharing.
• Be careful when using public computers or Wi-Fi that is accessible to others.
• Arm your computer with a firewall and antivirus software.
• Log out of your social networking accounts when you are not using them.
• Watch out for unfamiliar links sent to you-especially if you don’t know the sender.
• Make sure your mobile device is secure.
Examples of investment scams that have been known to use the Internet and social media:
• Market manipulation schemes • Pump-and-dump scams • Fraud marketed through spam e-mail or online investment newsletters
• High yield investment program scams • Fraud offerings made online
SEC Charges Illinois-Based Adviser in Social Media Scam Agency Issues Alerts on Social Media Risks for Investors and Firms, SEC, January 4, 2012
Read the SEC’s Investor Alert (PDF)
More Blog Posts:
FBI Arrests Texas Leader of Pump-and-Dump Scheme, Stockbroker Fraud, March 23, 2011
Lancer Management Group LLC Hedge Fund Manager Acquitted of Charges He Ran Market Manipulation Scam, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, May 5, 2011
Barclays Capital Ordered by FINRA to Pay $3M Fine For Alleged Subprime Mortgage Securitization-Related Misrepresentations, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, December 23, 2011
Our securities fraud attorneys at Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD, LLP Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD, LLP represents investors seeking to recover their losses.