Fake e-mail purportedly from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority that promises compensation from auction rate securities (ARS) settlements may be landing in your or your clients' in boxes.
FINRA issued an alert on Monday that warns of the "Auction Rate Securities Settlement 'Phishing' Scam." In the scam, a message is sent that says the e-mail recipient is due $1.5 million regardless of the amount of their ARS investment or loss. The e-mail then "phishes" for personal information by asking for the investor's occupation, address and phone number. The fake e-mail is made to appear as if it originated from FINRA and uses language from a recent FINRA press release announcing ARS settlements.
Investors who receive any ARS e-mail should neither respond to it nor click through any links contained in the e-mail, FINRA says. FINRA includes an example of the fake e-mail in its alert so that investors can more easily identify it.
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 e-mails will ensnare investors in an identity theft-or some other type of-scam." Investors should know that no legitimate organization will e-mail them requesting personal information," said John Gannon, FINRA's senior vice president for investor education.
FINRA is asking any investor who receives a "phishing" e-mail relating to an ARS settlement to forward that e-mail to FINRA's Office of the Whistleblower at email@example.com.