Washington, DC—The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) today issued an Investor Alert called Beware of Auction Rate Securities Settlement "Phishing" Scam, which warns the public about a scam using fake FINRA emails that promise compensation from auction rate securities (ARS) settlements in exchange for personal information. The fake emails are made to appear as if they originated from FINRA and use language from a recent FINRA press release announcing ARS settlements. They state that the email recipient is due $1.5 million regardless of the amount of their ARS investment or loss. The email then "phishes" for personal information by asking for the investor's occupation, address and phone number.
While FINRA, along with the Securities and Exchange Commission and state securities regulators, has announced final settlements with numerous brokerage firms relating to the sale of ARS, FINRA does not contact investors directly to advise them of the settlements. Instead, brokerage firms contact eligible investors, generally via letter, with an offer to repurchase ARS that the firm sold to them.
"FINRA is very concerned that these fraudulent emails will ensnare investors in an identity theft—or some other type of—scam." Investors should know that no legitimate organization will email them requesting personal information," said John Gannon, FINRA's Senior Vice President for Investor Education.
FINRA is asking any investor who receives a "phishing" email relating to an ARS settlement to forward that email to FINRA's Office of the Whistleblower at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As with any fraudulent email "phishing" for personal information, investors who receive any ARS email should neither respond to it nor click through any links contained in the email. In order to help investors identify these fake emails, the Investor Alert includes a sample fake ARS email that FINRA has obtained. Additional resources for investors on preventing identity theft are available in another FINRA Investor Alert, called "Phishing" and Other Online Identity Theft Scams: Don't Take the Bait.
FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, is the largest independent regulator for all securities firms doing business in the United States. FINRA is dedicated to investor protection and market integrity through comprehensive regulation. FINRA touches virtually every aspect of the securities business — from registering and educating all industry participants to examining securities firms; writing and enforcing rules and the federal securities laws; informing and educating the investing public; providing trade reporting and other industry utilities; and administering the largest dispute resolution forum for investors and firms.
For more information, please visit our Web site at www.finra.org.