Victims of investment scams targeted by phishers, SIPC says

by David S. Hilzenrath

“There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee -- that says, fool me once, shame on, shame on you. Fool me -- you can’t get fooled again.”

— President George W. Bush

Apparently, some people are willing to try.

Scammers are targeting victims of financial frauds, hoping to separate them from their money all over again.

Victims of past investment scams have reported being contacted by people offering to recover their money in return for an upfront fee, the Securities Investor Protection Corp. said Friday.

If the recipients of those solicitations are alert enough to spurn the offer, they are later contacted by someone claiming to represent SIPC, which insures clients of failed brokerage firms in much the way the FDIC protects bank depositors.

The phony SIPC representatives say they have seized the assets of the company that committed the original fraud and are trying to return money to the victims, SIPC said. They then ask the victims to fill out a form with personal information, which can be used to exploit them all over again, according to SIPC.

SIPC does not charge investors a fee for its services.

“Any individuals contacted by supposed representatives of SIPC who request an upfront fee or personal information should be extremely wary,”SIPC President Stephen Harbeck said in a statement.

SIPC has been funneling money to victims of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. This week, the Securities and Exchange Commission called on
SIPC to extend assistance
to investors in what the government alleges was a similar fraud by R. Allen Stanford.

The ploy SIPC described seems to be a variation on Internet-based “phishing” scams, in which people are tricked into disclosing personal information such as bank account details and Social Security numbers.

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