Sep 2
2020

Cybercriminals, hackers and other malicious online actors present a variety of threats to the public.  They’re continuously perpetrating new types of phishing and spoofing scams and developing upgraded trojans, keyloggers, ransomware and other forms of destructive software.  These threats are persuasive, and cyberattacks are becoming more routine, more harmful and more sophisticated.

Earlier today, Securities Commissioner Travis J. Iles entered an Emergency Cease and Desist Order that demonstrates investors are not immune from online cyberschemes.  The action involves an identity theft and impersonation scheme – a sophisticated case where respondents allegedly appropriated the identity of a registered firm and registered persons and then fraudulently used their identities to solicit money from the public.

Amage Trades and Admin OnlineExpo are accused of registering internet websites and social media accounts that purport to depict the likenesses of three registered parties.   The respondents allegedly adopted aliases that were substantially similar to the names of the registered parties, and they published photographs throughout the websites and social media platforms that purported to depict the registered parties.  The domain of one of the fraudulent websites was even strikingly similar to the domain of a website maintained by a registered party – differing by only one of 24 characters, according to the order. 

It gets worse.  In addition to creating phony websites and social media accounts that purported to depict the registered parties, the respondents are accused of using the CRD Numbers and SEC Number of the registered parties.  These identifiers are commonly used by both securities regulators and licensees, and the respondents’ use of these identifiers only added legitimacy to their scheme.  Not only did they appear to be the registered parties, but the use of the CRD Number and the SEC Number backed up the appearance. 

It didn’t stop with appropriation of identity, according to the order.  Instead, the respondents allegedly – while falsely acting as if they were the registered parties – solicited sales of investments in forex trading programs from the public.  The pitch was enticing – investors reportedly paid a minimum of $1,000 to receive a projected daily return of at least between 5 percent and 10 percent or a projected monthly return of at least 60 percent to 120 percent.   Other trading methods purportedly paid greater profits, including a program projected to pay between 120 and 480 percent returns. 

Investors were presented with a contract for the sale of the investments, according to the order.  The contract was allegedly part of the scheme, including forged signatures of the registered parties.  The contract also appeared to be notarized – again, adding legitimacy to the scheme – but the notary seal was also forged, according to the order.

The order alleged the tactics were used as part of a scheme to trick investors, believing they were dealing with registered parties, to part with their money.  Once tricked into sending their money and providing other information, the respondents would be able to take full control of the money and abscond with it, using it for purposes wholly unrelated to the forex investment program. 

Contact:  Joe Rotunda, Director of Enforcement, by telephone at 512-305-8392 or by electronic mail at jrotunda@ssb.texas.gov