Forty regulators in the US and Canada are reportedly collaborating in the largest coordinated crackdown on cryptocurrency scams to date by state and provincial officials. The operation has triggered over 70 investigations so far, with 35 cases completed or pending.
The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) said Monday that US and Canadian securities regulators have launched nationwide investigations on suspicious cryptocurrency investment schemes, the Washington Post reported. This is “the largest coordinated crackdown to date by state and provincial officials on bitcoin scams,” the news outlet wrote. CNBC elaborated:
More than 40 state and provincial watchdogs are participating in ‘Operation Crypto-Sweep,’ which has triggered at least 70 investigations so far.
NASAA is a voluntary association whose members are securities administrators from states, provinces, and territories in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, and Mexico. According to its website, the association is the oldest international organization devoted to investor protection.
The association, which helps coordinate Operation Crypto-Sweep, confirmed that “as many as 70 investigations have been opened in the sweep, with more expected in the coming weeks.” Furthermore, the Washington Post detailed, “As many as 35 cases are pending or already completed, with some resulting in cease-and-desist letters warning the alleged schemes that their unregistered activity violates state securities law.”
The efforts focus on “unregistered securities offerings that promise lucrative returns without adequately informing investors of the risks” as well as initial coin offerings (ICOs), the regulators explained.
By posing as members of the public, the NASAA task force found roughly 30,000 crypto-related domain name registrations, the news outlet described, adding that “Many of the alleged scams use fake addresses, slick marketing materials and promises of over 4 percent daily interest,” the news outlet described. “A few have even used unauthorized photos of high-profile individuals, such as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to portray themselves as aboveboard.”
The director of enforcement at the Texas State Securities Board, Joseph Rotunda, was quoted saying, “Although the international task force’s work is far from complete, my suspicions have already been confirmed: The market for cryptocurrency investments is saturated with fraud, and our work is only revealing the tip of the iceberg.”
Last week, the Wall Street Journal published a study showing that out of 1,470 ICOs, 271 were found to contain “red flags that include plagiarized investor documents, promises of guaranteed returns and missing or fake executive teams.” Investors have poured more than $1 billion into these 271 ICOs, the publication added. In addition, a Chinese government-backed industry organization also published its fake crypto analysis last week, claiming that its monitoring system has detected 421 fake cryptocurrencies.
Massachusetts’ Secretary of the Commonwealth, William Francis Galvin, emphasized on Monday:
Not every ICO or cryptocurrency-related investment is fraudulent, but we urge investors to approach any initial coin offering or cryptocurrency-related investment product with extreme caution.
NASAA president and the director of the Alabama Securities Commission, Joseph Borg, explained that “consumers face higher risks of being misled at a time when the intense demand for bitcoin has prompted many retail investors to take extreme steps to gain exposure to the currency, such as taking out a bigger mortgage.”
What do you think of Operation Crypto-Sweep? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock and NASAA.
Need to calculate your bitcoin holdings? Check our tools section.