Thursday, March 27, 2008

Who wants to be a Millionaire?

How many ridiculous emails do you get in a run of a day asking for your personal banking information in exchange for a percentage of millions and millions of dollars? I mean, geesh, is it just me or are there more millionaires per capita in Sierra Leone then in any other parts of the world?

These quick scams are usually designed to induce the vulnerable citizen into believing they can inherit a cool $10 million dollars for simply providing your bank account number and other personal information. Unfortunately, people who prey on the vulnerable - usually seniors- have been successful in obtaining this information. Once the scam artist is in possession of your personal information they have access to many unsuspecting things that the victim may not realize. For example, access to your banking account information allows access to your credit card information, mortgage information and credit history. Many scam artists obtain this information so they can sell it over the Internet to other scammers for very little money. In fact, credit cards can go for as little as $10.00, but monetary damage to the card holder can be thousands; sometimes tens of thousands.

The New Brunswick Securities Commission is an arms length Corporation from the Executive Branch of Government which was established in 2004 to regulate the securities industry and to protect investors from unfair, improper and fraudulent practices. Many people may not realize of this Corporation's existence despite its ongoing successful activity. For a good read on some of the Securities Commission's disciplinary hearings see:
http://www.nbsc-cvmnb.ca/nbsc/content.jsp?id=79&pid=7

I don't know about you, but those who prey on seniors or the unsophisticated investor should be sanctioned to the fullest limits of the law. The New Brunswick Securities Commission does just that! Sure, tougher penalties can be imposed on these but who says they aren't on their way?


Thanks, T.J.

10 comments:

RyanW said...

TJ, how about merging all the provincial securities commissions into an all encompassing Federal institution with nasty teeth and resources to make use of them, like the SEC in the US. They've already inprisoned Lord Black, a bunch of Enron executives and fined the hell out of Canadian Banks that supported Enron. We haven't even managed to convict anyone for simple fraud in the Bre-X case. I realize that in little old New Brunswick we're not going to change the world, we can't protect old people from scam artists in Africa, but maybe if we banded together we could actually protect them from the scam artists here at home

mikel said...

Congrats on opening up important issues for debate. Of course you have to tout the party line, but a little more detail would at least be nice. After all, this is 'Irvingtown'. When is the last time you saw an article on the NB securities commission? I did a quick search and in the first three pages didn't come up with any other sources but government ones.

It should be mentioned that if you answer one of those emails and get ripped off then the odds of getting much help from the NBSC isn't too good. Go look at that list of penalties and you won't find too many email frauds.

As usual, this is an important issue that people should be talking about-not just bilingualism.

Of course we expect the government spin here, that's expected, but its a much broader issue than just "look what a great job we're doing". For penalties, that's an awfully short list, however, given the lack of media attention I doubt most New Brunswickers even know what the NBSC does.

That brings up the main problem, mentioned briefly when the Commission first started work-namely, "In New Brunswick, your securities commission’s mandate is two-fold: to protect New Brunswick investors from scams and fraud, and to help our businesses and entrepreneurs grow by encouraging access to capital."


If that doesn't sound like 'conflict of interest' then I don't know what does. I sure would love to be in a business where I conducted the business AND was responsible for regulating it.

Which brings up the third issue, namely, the attempt to build a NATIONAL securities commission, in part for the simple reason so that small regulators aren't 'in bed' with market players. Of course government will say 'such a thing would never happen'. But in the real world, well, let's get real, we're talking about business and money.

But thats an issue for the government, the securities commission will of course come out against it because their jobs are on the line.

D Stewart said...

I agree that we really must do everything we can to protect those caught up in these scams especially as it relates to seniors. While I do not quite agree with the example you have chosen to use here. (I have always felt the rich millionaire escaping Sierra Leone scam works not because of age but because of greed and just plain stupidity.) It is those scam artists that prey on the insecurities of the elderly that do by far the most harm. The bank manager scams or the stranded neighbor or relative that needs immediate help. To be honest I have the same concerns with televangelists and door to door salesmen. We had a run in a few years ago with a vacuum salesman that convinced an elderly relative to spend hundreds of dollars on a new system that they didn't need. Had we not intervened she would have had a nice vacuum but no groceries for a month. The thing is how to stop it. How do you catch people when they might well be on the other side of the world. In reality how many ever receive retribution for the crimes committed against them?

T.J. Burke said...

Fair points dstewart.Although the purpose of my example is simply to demonstrate the volume and brashness of these groups who simply email anyone and everyone. Identity theft is a fairly new phenomena which used to be done in a discreet manner.

T.J. Burke said...

Ryanw,

The Federal government is pushing the single regulator model aggressively. I would find it difficult to imagine if a Province like Ontario became the regualtor for all national securities that New Brunswick's concerns would be remotely on their radar. The Passport system takes full effect at the end of this month and New Brunswick is a participant. It

T.J. Burke said...

Mikel,

If you lived in New Brunswick instead of looking for government spin all the time, you would see on a daily basis an aggressive marketing campaign by the NBSC focussed on protecting our citizens from scam artists.

There is no conflict of interest in the NBSC mandate. Protecting and Promoting business are not the same. As to the short list of penalties, read between the lines of my last sentence!

Canadian Rods said...

Hi TJ,

To quote you: "Sure, tougher penalties can be imposed on these but who says they aren't on their way?"

Please tell us that the government has something in the works for DUI-related offences as well. If you read the local papers online, take a look at the comments about the 5 year sentence handed down to the person convicted of killing both parents of two young children. The comments are reminiscent of the ones written for the story of Peter Howe, who was initially given house arrest after killing a man with his vehicle while drunk.

We are talking about the Number 1 preventable killer in Canada, yet we're moving at a snail's pace when it comes to making the penalties harsh enough to stop these people from getting behind the wheel in the first place.

My suggestions for a DUI or refusal conviction would be a mandatory vehicle forfeiture, tripling or quadrupling of the fines imposed, mandatory jail time for repeat offenders, and a minimum 5 year license suspension on a first offence with a lifetime ban for repeat offenders.

Does it sound harsh? Probably not to the kids orphaned by Valmont LeBlanc. Who knows, it might be enough to prevent a similar tragedy from happening.

mikel said...

Here's some quotes from "Canadian Business" interview with two former IMET securities investigators:

CB: "How would you describe Canada's justice system as it deals with white collar crime?"

Bill Majcher: "The system is pretty much non-existent."

"Canada is seen as a haven for criminals"

"....weak enforcement"

"...when I was undercover I was told I should move my (fake) criminal operation to Canada"

"...I was told it was about 100 times safer than the US"

"...one FBI guy said that 'maybe we should start treating Canada like a third world country'"

"I have talked with money managers and investors who have told me they will not invest in Canada"

"one multibillionaire I spoke with who has extensive private holdings told me he will not invest in Canadian public companies because there is no recourse if something goes wrong"

"...foreign police powers have more power over canadians than the RCMP does"

"we know what the bad guys are doing but we don't have the tools to stop them"

"People in the market are losing confidence"

"sentences for white collar crime in Canada are a joke"

"a national securities regulator would be a nice first step but no one should think that would solve all our problems"

Footnotes: Canadian Business, September 28, 2007, pages 26-28.

I think the fact that 'there may be bigger fines in the future' says enough about the current state of affairs. But as for the conflict of interest, even the NBSC itself stated that it was aware of that, you simply can't miss it.

For the national regulator, people need to remember that there are TWO jobs of the securities commission (which is part of the problem), one is to promote the market, and the other is to regulate it. I can understand that IF a national commission were doing BOTH of those then the marginalized parts of the country may miss out.

If the federal branch were to only do the REGULATING then that's not really an issue. It would be like saying that the RCMP doesn't service New Brunswick well because its more interested in ontario.

It's a problem all over the country. Ryan mentioned Bre-X and there are several excellent books on the subject, with many great quotes like "there is no such thing as a successful and honest mining promoter". One of the main books on Bre-X came right out and stated that the Alberta and British Columbian stock exchanges are essentially fronts for organized crime, even comparing them to markets in the third world. And that's of course because they are responsible both for promoting the exchange AND regulating it.

That's Canada wide, but just because a federal body is set up doesn't necessarily mean problem solved, if the legislation isn't there, nothing happens. The feds certainly COULD put legislation in place already, but aren't in a hurry to do so-which is surprising since they talk so much about law and order.

NB taxpayer said...

To be honest and frank TJ, I worry more about the shenanigans that went on within the credit union system (much of it our money as well via government loans and bailouts), then I do from a bunch of funky spam emails.

The spam I can delete, but the abuse of taxpayers money I cannot.

Charles LeBlanc said...

Anyone who contacted these people in Africa are crooks anyway!

Anyway to make an easy buck!

If it's too good to be true? It usually is???

That's a fact!!!!

If it starts by Dear one...Dear Madame?

DELETE!!!!!

By the way? I don't kiss ass but I must admit that you're doing a good job.

I was chatting with a few people today and the question is this?

How long will Blogger General last?

That's the question?