UPDATE: U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel on May 7 granted the federal government’s application for a preliminary injunction in the case.
U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel on April 23 issued a temporary restraining order to shut down the website of an entity that is allegedly pretending to be an Austin-based securities regulator as a way to commit identity theft.
The Department of Justice requested the injunction to shut down an entity called the Board of Securities and Financial Services (BSFS), which is attempting to defraud individuals by obtaining their sensitive personal and financial information through its website, www.bsecfins.org.
The website host shut down the site shortly after the TRO was entered. A hearing to consider a permanent injunction is scheduled for May 7.
The BSFS describes itself as a regulator with wide authority, based in downtown Austin at an address five blocks from the headquarters of the Texas State Securities Board.
The BSFS does not exist, and its website was set up by a “John Doe” using a Panamanian company that allows domain users to conceal who actually registers a site name.
On its site, the BSFS claims it is responsible for “supervising, managing, and implementing all federal securities laws” related to mergers and acquisitions, and its “mission” is to “protect investors and maintain integrity of the securities industry.”
According to a complaint filed by the U.S. Justice Department, an individual claiming to be with the BSFS is using the pseudonym “Brian Vance” in dealing with potential victims of the alleged identity theft fraud.
The site invites investors to file complaints about issuers of securities and financial services companies.
On April 20, according to the federal court filing, a Texas State Securities Board investigator, who also serves as an FBI task force officer, visited the site, which contained a link to “File a Complaint” about financial services companies.
Filing a complaint required a person to provide a name, company, address, phone number and email address, along with the identity of the firm that is the subject of the complaint.
According to the federal filing, the Texas State Securities Board was contacted earlier this month by an individual who filed a complaint on the BSFS site. The complaint concerned an investment in a U.S. company.
The individual was contacted by an unnamed party who said he was affiliated with the Board of Securities and Financial Services.
According to the federal filing, the BSFS requested the complainant's banking information, including account number.
When the State Securities Board investigator called the number provided by the alleged representative of the BSFS, the individual who answered said his name was Brian Vance and that he worked for the securities regulator in Austin.
The State Securities Board is assisting the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Texas on the case.