CEBU CITY – Despite the prevailing health crisis due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), online investment scammers continue victimizing the public in their “get-rich-quick” schemes, the Securities and Exchange Commission-Cebu extension office (SEC-CEO) said.
Lawyer Alma Marie Dalena, officer-in-charge of SEC-CEO, said the commission advises the public to exercise caution in dealing with firms soliciting investments using the social media and internet platform.
“We are reminding the investing public that the certificate of incorporation is not enough for corporations to solicit investments. Before they can do that, they must first secure a secondary license from the commission,” Dalena said in a statement on Thursday.
Dalena said the SEC is relentlessly conducting investor protection efforts, adding that would-be investors may email their office through email@example.com to verify if a certain corporation is authorized to engage in investment-taking.
She also encouraged potential investors to regularly check the Advisories page of the Commission’s official website, http://www.sec.gov.ph.
“The Enforcement and Investor Protection Department (EIPD) is proactive in identifying groups or individuals taking advantage of the (Covid-19) pandemic to scam investors. I’m encouraging the investing public to regularly check on the advisories posted on our website for additional guidance and information on the activities of these fraudulent entities,” she added.
Tiara Jabutay, the information officer of SEC-CEO, told the Philippine News Agency in an interview Friday, that there are Cebuanos who filed complaints with their office after being victimized by online investment scams.
“The location of the investment firms does not matter. What matters is the reach of their offer to the public. Some are having their operations in Manila and some are in other provinces but they have the same modus, that is to use online and social media in reaching their target audience and entice them to invest online,” she said in Cebuano.
Jabutay said some investment firms enticed netizens to invest through products like gold or silver and some use pyramiding recruitment as a scheme to lure investors.
She lamented that while there are unsuspecting investors who fell into the trap of the scammers, there are individuals who, despite their prior knowledge about the negative report against a firm, still invest after being attracted to “easy money”.
Dalena’s warning came after the SEC central office issued on Tuesday an advisory against investing in CROWD1 Asia Pacific, Inc., Sharebiz Ads/ Sharebiz Advertising/ Sharebiz Online Advertising Services, and Winners Ecommerce International Network Corp. (WINCORP).
According to a statement, CROWD1, Sharebiz, and WINCORP neither have registered securities such as investment contracts nor have secured a secondary license to solicit and take investments from the public, as required under Republic Act No. 8799 or The Securities Regulation Code.
The SEC said it has no record of Sharebiz and WINCORP being registered as corporations or partnerships.
Under its scheme, CROWD1 offers membership packages worth PHP6,000 to PHP240,000, it said. An investor is entitled to bonuses by simply joining, sponsoring newer members, and recruiting more people.
Sharebiz, meanwhile, offers three entry packages worth PHP330 to PHP1,100. An investor may earn by recruiting members, encoding captcha, selling products, and converting a portion of his/her earnings into the so-called BIZCOIN.
This Camarines Sur-based firm also offers a BIZCOIN-focused compensation plan where one may invest PHP500 to PHP50,000 and earn a 42 percent interest every 20 days within a two-month period by simply logging in his/her account.
WINCORP likewise offers entry packages worth PHP4,888 to PHP39,998 with 200 to 1,600 equivalent points. An investor may earn PHP1,000 daily, PHP20,000 weekly, or PHP30,000 monthly by selling products and recruiting members.
The statement said the SEC warned that those who act as salesmen, brokers, dealers, or agents of fraudulent investment schemes may be held criminally liable and penalized with a maximum fine of PHP5 million or imprisonment of 21 years or both under the Securities Regulation Code.
Republic Act No. 11469 or the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” further penalizes those participating in cyber incidents that make use or take advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to prey on the public through scams, phishing, fraudulent emails, or other similar acts with two-month imprisonment or a maximum fine of PHP1 million or both. (PNA)