Beware of scams during the novel coronavirus pandemic, securities commission warns
VANCOUVER -- While the novel coronavirus pandemic has slowed many aspects of life for B.C. residents, investment scams don't appear to have lessened.
One scam that seems to have increased in recent weeks involves an envelope being delivered to doorsteps with a letter that says COVID-19 is affecting markets and encourages the reader to buy shares in a B.C.-based gold mining company.
The letter then promises a 500 to 2,400 per cent return on investments.
"One of the concerns we have about those letters is they have all the hallmarks of a tool that's used in a pump-and-dump scheme," said Doug Muir, director of enforcement with the B.C. Securities Commission.
"We haven't seen them in paper in quite a long time and what does concern us is they're taking advantage of panic and fear and anxiety because of the coronavirus."
Another scam to watch for, Muir says, involves so-called investments in businesses claiming to have found a cure to COVID-19.
"There is no cure that we know of at all for coronavirus … so people have to be very, very cautious," Muir said, encouraging people to just walk away from the situation if anyone makes these claims.
While many people have transitioned to working from home during the pandemic, Muir said some con artists are trying to convince their targets to participate in security trading without registration.
"I think maybe the scammers are taking advantage here, or trying to take advantage of the fact that people are at home," he said. "You have to be registered if you're in the business of trading securities, so these scammers maybe try to take advantage of people panicking."
Muir recommends residents do their research before investing.
"Rely on reliable sources," he said. "Don't invest because you got a flashy letter in the mail."