SEC warns public of more online investment scams

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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued separate advisories on May 5 identifying more online groups engaged in investment-solicitation activities without the necessary licenses.

The SEC named the firms as CryptoInvestWith.Us (CIW.U), Won Project/ Won Network/ Won Foundation, and Captcha Philippines, which have neither registered securities such as investment contracts nor secured secondary licenses to solicit and take investments from the public.

Furthermore, CIW.U, Won Project, and Captcha Philippines -Invest are not registered corporations or partnerships. Yet, they have enticed the public to participate in schemes involving the sale or offering of investment contracts and other securities.

CIW.U guarantees a 1% return after six days and up to 20% return per week on investors’ bitcoin deposits. Based on information gathered by the SEC, CIW.U is the new name of Maginvestka.Online (MIKO), the subject of a similar advisory issued by the SEC earlier.

Won Project likewise touts investments in a cryptocurrency called WonCoin, promising a daily profit of 1.5% for a period of 100 days on investment packages worth $100 to $20,000. It also promises commissions from the purchases of referrals and points convertible into cash and incentives such as cars and international travels.

The SEC noted how Won Project took advantage of the current crisis when it offered a promo, where investors would receive an additional 50% bonus on their WonCoin purchases during the Covid-19 pandemic. Won Project also claims to be headquartered in Singapore, but the SEC found that its main team composed of Jay Mark Abenir, Mhedel Ponce, Jhomar S. Montoya and Jiaxuan Hoan actually operates in the Philippines.

Captcha Philippines, meanwhile, promises its “shareholders” a 25% weekly return on their investments. It also allows members to earn up to P500 daily or P15,000 monthly by purchasing an account worth P2,500 and solving Captcha tests, plus P125 for every direct and indirect recruit up to the third level of their networks.

The SEC warned that those who act as salesmen, brokers, dealers or agents of fraudulent investment schemes may be held criminally liable and penalized with a maximum fine of P5 million or imprisonment of 21 years or both under the Securities Regulation Code. Those who invite or recruit others to join or invest in such ventures may likewise incur criminal liability, or otherwise be sanctioned or penalized accordingly.

Republic Act No. 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, further penalizes those participating in cyber incidents that make use or take advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to prey on the public through scams, phishing, fraudulent emails, or other similar acts with two-month imprisonment or a maximum fine of P1 million or both.

The SEC has issued advisories on the unauthorized investment activities of at least 43 individuals and groups since the declaration of a state of public health emergency throughout the Philippines due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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