News Release

ASC highlights top investment scams to watch out for in 2024

Jan 24, 2024

CALGARY – January 24, 2024 –The Alberta Securities Commission (ASC) today shared information on the top three investment scams to look out for this year and steps Albertans can take to protect themselves. 

Each year, the ASC reviews investor complaints, ongoing investigations and current enforcement trends to raise awareness of scams targeting Alberta investors. For 2024, the regulator noted that there are many types of frauds affecting investors, however variations of crypto scams are the most pervasive.

“It’s become harder to determine which opportunities are legitimate and which are not,” said Hilary McMeekin, Director of Communications and Investor Education. “The common thread we are seeing with crypto and other scams is that people are trusting others, especially those they may not know well or at all.” 

The ASC encourages all Albertans to be aware of scam trends and to do their research and registration checks before investing.

Celebrity and athlete endorsements and social media deepfakes – “I’m ‘all in’ on this opportunity and you should be too.”

Celebrity or athlete endorsements of investment opportunities may seem appealing, however investors should be wary of promises of high returns, risk-free investing or free money. Some endorsements may even be artificially generated fake videos known as deepfakes with the individual having no knowledge or involvement in its creation.  

“Regardless of how convincing they look or sound, actors, models, athletes, politicians or entrepreneurs are not automatically reliable or qualified sources of financial advice,” warned McMeekin. “Endorsements are never a guarantee of legitimacy or investment returns.”

Romance scams – “I care about you so much and I want you to benefit from this investment.”

Dating app fraud and romance scams have seen a significant uptick in recent years. In Alberta, there were 70 reports of romance scams with losses exceeding $2.6 million in 2023, though the actual figure is believed to be much larger as many do not report being a victim out of embarrassment or shame. 
 
“Fraudsters take advantage of vulnerable people looking for friendship or love,” noted McMeekin. Once a relationship is established, they exploit the trust and attachment created to request money or fabricate investment opportunities. In recent months often these are related to crypto.
 
Signs of a romance or dating scam include an online stranger expressing love or affection too soon. They may then avoid meeting in person or on video calls, and eventually ask for money, crypto or offer a crypto investment that they can invest in on your behalf.  

“Always be cautious of new friends or acquaintances that take an immediate interest in your finances or offer investment advice,” added McMeekin.

Recovery room scams – “We can help you get your money back.”

As interest in crypto continues to grow, fraudsters are increasingly deploying what’s called “recovery room” scams to further defraud victims.
 
In this type of fraud, con artists impersonate regulators, recovery agencies or law enforcement and attempt to defraud victims again under the pretext of recovering their lost crypto assets or funds for a fee. To make it more convincing, fraudster’s target these recent victims using information from the original scam. 
 
“Stay alert for red flags like fee requests and demands for banking or personal details,” added McMeekin. “Neither law enforcement agencies nor the Alberta Securities Commission will ever contact you with an unsolicited offer to recover your money or assets for a fee.”
 
Remember — recovering funds from fraudulent crypto investment scams is rarely possible. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  

Protect yourself – visit CheckFirst.ca 

Being aware of the red flags of fraud is crucial. There are additional steps investors can take to protect themselves and help others:

  • Stay alert. Research any opportunity thoroughly before you invest. To help, the Alberta Securities Commission maintains an Investment Caution List that includes the names of companies that are not registered with the ASC and appear to be engaging in activities that either require registration under Alberta securities laws or may be investment scams. 
  • Check registration. Check whether the company or individual you plan to invest with is registered. You can complete this check by consulting the ASC’s Alberta-based Registrant List and the Canadian Securities Administrators National Registration Search
  • Know where to turn. If you suspect you or someone you know has lost money to a crypto investment scam, file a complaint with the Alberta Securities Commission via email complaints@asc.ca or call us at 403-355-3888.

Taking time to further understand common crypto scams can help you recognize, avoid and report them. Visit CheckFirst.ca/crypto-scams for more information. 
 
The ASC is the regulatory agency responsible for administering the province's securities laws. It is entrusted with fostering a fair and efficient capital market in Alberta and with protecting investors. As a member of the Canadian Securities Administrators, the ASC works to improve, coordinate and harmonize the regulation of Canada's capital markets.

For further information please contact:

 

For Media Inquiries:

 

For Investor Inquiries:

Tanja McMorris
Alberta Securities Commission
media@asc.ca

ASC Public Inquiries
Toll Free: 1-877-355-4488