14 investment firms offering Ponzi schemes closed; 39 more under probe

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 02 June) — Authorities in the Davao region have shut down 14 investment companies offering extraordinary returns similar to Ponzi schemes and are investigating 39 more to ensure they “comply with the government regulations, and to prevent them from turning into an investment scam,” Brig. Gen. Marcelo Morales, Director of the Police Regional Office (PRO) 11 said.

“That’s the target of the inter-agency task force,” he said.

The regional police and five other agencies last week set up the Inter-Agency Task Force to Prevent Fraudulent Investment Scheme following the proliferation of investment firms in the region offering returns of at least four times the amount  “donated” within a few weeks. Those who shell out money to “invest” are not issued receipts but are made to sign deeds of donation.

The regional police and five other agencies last week set up the Inter-Agency Task Force to Prevent Fraudulent Investment Scheme following the proliferation of investment firms in the region offering extraordinarily high returns in a matter of weeks. Photo Courtesy of Police Regional Office XI

Other members of the task force are the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), National Bureau of Investigation-Davao, Department of Trade and Industry-Davao 11, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, and Philippine Information Agency-Davao.

MindaNews asked Morales and his spokesperson for the names of the firms that were closed but they have yet to reply as of 3 p.m. Sunday.

The SEC in its May 31 advisory, also warned the public of fraudulent investment companies that are soliciting investments online.

The SEC said the Ponzi scheme “ordinarily collapses as fast as they are created while leaving its investors behind, unable to recoup their investments.” It reminded the public that investment schemes, whether with the use of money or cryptocurrencies, are considered as securities subject to the regulatory authority of this Commission.

It said the sale of securities without a permit or license from the SEC is a violation of Section 8.1 of the Securities Regulation Code, which states that “securities shall not be sold or offered for sale or distribution within the Philippines, without a registration statement duly filed with and approved by the Commission. Prior to such sale, information on the securities, in such form and with such substance as the Commission may prescribe, shall be made available to each prospective purchaser.”

The recruitment of investor “members under the guise of sponsoring a person into the system is likewise considered a form of investment solicitation or a sale of securities,” according to SEC.

The SEC identified examples of investment companies that are soliciting investment through social media: MGA Business Enterprises, Coophub Multimedia Services, Jogle Innovative Marketing, Global Dream Zion, Grappler, Sherpan, BCT Marketing/BCT Motorcycle and Car Trading, RTM/RTM Pharmacy and General Merchandise, Diamond Marketing, Fusion Marketing, FMarket, Cirfund, Vibearn, Onepro, BCC/BCC Cosmetics Trading, Unlishop Compensation Plan Marketing, VUCC, Bitrain, TCOIN, Crowd Royals, Ada Farm Agri Venture, Nermie Marketing/Nermie Health and Beauty Products Trading.

According to SEC, the schemes by these companies include offering investment contracts in Facebook pages or secret Facebook groups and chatroom, Youtube etc; offering unrealistic return on investments ranging from 10% to 400% per month; requiring investors to pay their initial investments by depositing their money to a specific bank account, Coins.Ph account, GCash, through a money remittance company and through face-to-payment with one of the entity’s agents, and asking  investor to  send through a private message a copy of the proof of the deposit to the offeror who shall send his confirmation after validation; delivering payouts through similar methods; and claiming that they invest their funds in forex, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to justify their earning capacity.

The commission said the public could spot these fraudulent schemes when “investments sound too good to be true,” claims on website that an investment

will make “incredible gains” or has “huge upside and almost no risk,” promise of “guaranteed” returns, and pressure to buy right now. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)