SEC warns public vs investment scams riding on pandemic fears

VIGAN CITY β€” Unscrupulous individuals are riding on the financial worries caused by the coronavirus disease pandemic to trick unsuspecting victims into parting with their hard-earned money.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has released a series of advisories the past weeks warning the public against several get-rich-quick schemes.

In its advisories issued on May 7, the Commission flagged another set of individuals and groups allegedly for not being registered with SEC and for soliciting and taking investments from the public without the required licenses as required under Republic Act No. 8799, or The Securities Regulation Code.

Those flagged are the Bayanihan Program of Billy Ford Andrada, My Gold Rev/ My Gold Rev Philippines, Friend$hip/ Friend$hip Philippines and World of Captcha (WOC).

According to SEC, Billy Ford Andrada, through his Bayanihan Program, solicits a minimum investment of P2,000 with 50% return plus a 5% direct referral bonus. To entice more investors, Andrada ran promotions for a 15% direct commission and a P300 bonus for every investment of P2,000 amid the quarantine measures implemented to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Commission says that a certain Billy Ford Delos Santos Andrada has been the subject of an earlier advisory regarding investment-solicitation activities in the guise of a piggery business.

My Gold Rev, meanwhile, allegedly offers business plans for $20 to $100,000. Investors may supposedly earn a daily profit of 2% to 3.5% for 80 to 100 days, or a 260% to 450% return on investment.

Friend$hip, on the other hand, allegedly collects a subscription fee of $7.99 or P385. Members receive $1 for every referral in the first to the fifth levels of their network. Friend$hip recently launched its second investment option: a subscription plan with landing page at $11 or P935. Under this plan, investors may earn $1 per successful referral and another $1 per purchased landing page up to the fifth level. Friend$hip claims to be an American company with a business address in New Jersey, USA. The group is reportedly headed by a certain Rodnelio β€œRon” Chang Capua, according to various Facebook posts.

WOC also solicits investments from the public in the guise of an online business. It reportedly offers plans worth P200 to P1,000 where members could supposedly earn P300 to P1,500 by typing CAPTCHA. In addition, WOC promises bonuses ranging from P20 to P100 for direct referrals and P5 to P25 for indirect referrals up to the fifth level. It also offers a program where members can purchase 75 codes and get 10 free codes for P15,000 for the purpose of reselling them. Both plans expire after eight days, pushing members to purchase new plans and/or upgrade to continue earning under the scheme. WOC is headed by a certain Charles Serrano.

According to the SEC, 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 law. Those who invite or recruit others to join or invest in such ventures may likewise incur criminal liability, or otherwise be sanctioned accordingly.

In addition, Republic Act No. 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, penalizes those who participate in cyber incidents that take advantage of the 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. ●