The Autorité des marchés financiers (“AMF”) is again urging Canadian traders from Québec to exercise caution when approached by binary brokers. The watchdog says there is a recent rise in the number of suspicious schemes by unregistered foreign companies encouraging clients in the province to invest in binary options via online trading platforms.
Offering investment services or products, whether from an on-line platform or in person, is a regulated activity in Québec. Any company offering trading or investing services in the province must be registered with the AMF and authorized for market derivatives.
“In the past few weeks, AMF investigators, in particular the cybersurveillance team, noticed that companies based mainly in Cyprus, the Virgin Islands and the United Kingdom were using tactics that seem to target Quebeckers,” said Jean-François Fortin, Executive Director, Enforcement. “Our investigators discovered web banners with special offers for Québec investors as well as demo accounts posting lots of profits, which is quite unusual,” he added.
“Binary options are a sort of “wager” where investors bet on the performance of an underlying asset, often a currency, stock index or share, usually in a short period of time. When that period is up, the investor receives a pre-determined payout or loses his wager. It’s an “all or nothing” proposition,” explained Mr. Fortin.
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Unauthorized binary options trading platforms are sometimes associated with scams. According to the AMF, Quebeckers should be very careful when trading on these platforms, as the consequences can be serious, such as difficulty recovering money and even identity theft.
New Potential Victims
According to the watchdog, a new scheme specifically solicits investors who have lost money or who are unable to recover their money after investing via unauthorized online trading platforms in the past few months.
“It appears that a few of these companies were running multiple platforms. Some consumers who opened accounts, submitted personal information, made investments and lost money, are now being hounded to invest via a new platform. The callers speak French, and attempts are made to obtain credit card numbers. It is important that the public be on their guard,” concluded Mr. Fortin.
Some companies even claim that a regulator, such as the AMF, has mandated them to help investors recoup a specific amount of the money recently lost by trading on an unregistered platform. They ask them to open an account on a new trading platform.
Below is the AMF’s updated list of websites that are not authorized to offer investment products and services in Québec. The seven platforms most recently identified as suspicious are shown in bold. The list is updated when new unauthorized sites are brought to the AMF’s attention.