Securities investigator randomly contacted by illegal investment firm
Winnipeg – Manitoba resident Jason Roy couldn’t believe the coincidence when he received a random automated call at his home at 6 p.m. on April 11 from Central Option, a ‘Binary Options’ trading firm offering an ‘amazing investment opportunity.’ Roy, senior investigator with Manitoba Securities Commission (MSC), began a conversation with a self-described expert on Binary Options trading. Roy then began gathering evidence while pretending to be a potential high-value investor.
Roy, ironically, is a member of the Canadian Securities Administrator’s (CSA) special working group on combating Binary Options investment fraud.
“I grabbed my notebook, and after confirming some details with an operator, I was connected to an individual identifying himself as Sean Bessi,” said Roy. “Bessi started to pitch me on the exact sort of illegal investments I’ve been investigating for the past two years. It was a bit surreal.” Bessi claimed to be working from a Central Option office in Toronto, and that the firm maintains offices in London and Hong Kong. Bessi explained Binary Options trading was “very safe,” and “not gambling.” Roy was offered a free education package and a $100 credit to do some trading. Bessi then walked Roy through the whole trading process, repeatedly suggesting he fund the new account by using his credit card or wiring money.
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—sometimes minutes or even seconds. When that period is up, the investor receives a predetermined payout or loses his wager. It’s an “all or nothing” proposition. In some instances, no actual trading takes place—the sales pitch is just a channel to steal money. A request to send money offshore to an unregistered firm is a red flag for investment fraud. Roy was also told he would not have to pay any taxes on any profits earned in the account.
MSC has since confirmed the Toronto office does not exist. Central Option’s phone number is a VOIP number that forwards the call outside of the country.
In the last two months, Manitobans have reportedly lost nearly $160,000 to unregistered, offshore Binary Options firms. MSC suspects losses may be higher due to unreported cases. MSC advises all investors:
- There are currently no Binary Options firms registered to sell securities in Canada
- Never send money to anyone you only know from an unsolicited phone call or email
- Never give out sensitive personal information online or over the phone
- Research an investment before making a commitment
- Make sure the firm and individual you are dealing with are registered in Manitoba by checking their registration status at recognizeinvestmentfraud.com