The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has warned the public against dealing with 14 entities found to have exploited the COVID-19 pandemic to defraud investors and consumers.
In one of its latest advisories, the SEC urged the public not to invest in MAGINVESTKA.ONLINE (MIK.O), which purportedly trades bitcoin against the US dollar. Another entity newly identified as fraudulent was Azenzo-Online, which supposedly operates as an independent crowdfunding platform.
MIK.O is operated by a person or persons using the pseudonym “Mag Forex.” It entices the public to invest supposedly with a guaranteed 2-percent return daily or 200 percent in total for a period of 100 days.
Azenzo-Online, meanwhile, perpetuates a “Deposit-Donation, Withdrawal-Blessing” scheme similar to the scheme of Kapa-Community Ministry International, which is now facing multiple charges for perpetrating a “Ponzi”-type scam.
Ponzi scheme is an investment program that offers impossibly high returns and pays investors using the money contributed by other investors.
For its part, Azenzo-Online promises a 30-percent return in as early as five, 10 or 15 days and a 100-percent “donation return” after 20 days.
“We encourage the public to carefully study and examine offers and invitations to participate in schemes promising easy money especially in these difficult times,” SEC Chair Emilio Aquino said.
“On our part, the Commission will continue monitoring investment-solicitation activities online and on the ground to stop unscrupulous groups from putting any other burden on Filipinos, especially the vulnerable, amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.
Neither MIK.O nor Azenzo-Online had registered as a corporation or partnership, the SEC said. Both did not secure prior registration or license to solicit investments from the public, as required under Sections 8 and 12 of Republic Act No. 8799, or the Securities Regulation Code.
The SEC also flagged the activities of individuals and groups using the names of certain foundations or representing themselves as such.
The public was cautioned against a text scam using the name of President Duterte. Under the scheme, one would receive a text message stating that he or she won P750,000 from the President Duterte Charity Foundation through an electronic raffle. There is no such foundation registered as a corporation with the SEC.
Other entities flagged by the SEC included: Bitrade/Bitrade Bitcoin Trading Ltd./ Bitrade Ltd. PH; Bitcoin Revolution; E-Commerce/House of Entrepeneurs Inc., Fast Track Worldwide Inc., Narcfunds/Narcsfund; Munic Nation Inc. and Munics Banks; Nextgen Global Alliance Corp. (NEXTGEN) and NEXTGEN Organic Farmers Cooperative (NAOFACO); Fast Five System-United Phoenix Team; Non-stock Corporations, Associations and Foundations in Zamboanga City; BIG500PH, and International VIP Financing/International VIP Financing PH.
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, the SEC warned.
Those who engage in text scams also face criminal prosecution for violation of the Revised Penal Code, the Cyber Crime Law and Data Privacy Act.
In addition, Republic Act No. 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, penalizes those participating in cyber incidents that make use or take advantage of the current crisis 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.
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