The beauty of the internet is that there is always one more link to follow or one more video to watch. The ‘fake’ news of people starting to dig holes in their back gardens because of an old black and white photograph is often as entertaining as political rants.
The downside is that constant searching and reading leaves an electronic footprint that can quickly attract advertisements supposedly tailored to your interests.
Search for a new electric drill and be prepared for a week of advertisements from hardware stores whenever you look at Facebook or when you read the daily news.
It also attracts unsavoury characters. Reading rude jokes, fake news, and financial articles late into the night apparently prequalifies internet junkies for a trading account with a dubious offshore broker.
Ever thought of opening a trading account after reading how “Ramaphosa and Gordham [sic] shock South Africans with a secret banking system”?
You must hurry, there are only 37 places left.
That article, on a website designed to look like that of The Mirror newspaper in the UK, says that Cyril Ramaphosa and Pravin “Gordham” are done messing around. They negotiated a multi-billion rand deal with an international trading platform that allows South Africans to generate wealth from the comfort of their own homes.
In other versions, it was Patrice “Mosepe” who was done messing around, while others reveal how Johann Rupert or Trevor Noah really made their money.
But not even Noah’s stories are as funny as the attempt by Traders Pros to elicit clients in SA.
They tried to pass the same old story off as an article published by Daily Maverick under the heading “Cyril Ramaphosa’s Latest Investment Has Experts In Awe And Big Banks Terrified”.
It starts off with: “Residents of the city of [city:EN] are already raking in millions…”
Unbelievably, they couldn’t even get the first sentence of their pitch right.
It continued: “Last week, Cyril Ramaphosa appeared on Morning Live and announced a new ‘wealth loophole’ which he says can transform anyone into a millionaire within 3-4 months.
“Cyril urged everyone in SA to jump on this amazing opportunity before the big banks shut it down for good. And sure enough, minutes after the interview was over, First National Bank called to stop Francois’ interview from being aired – but it was already too late.”
These three sentences contain six lies:
- Daily Maverick never published this nonsense;
- The interview never happened;
- There isn’t a loophole;
- It is impossible to become a millionaire in a few weeks;
- Ramaphosa never urged anybody to give their money to con artists; and
- FNB couldn’t have called to complain about an interview that never happened.
Plus, who is Francois?
The fake report wants us to believe that a Morning Live host was shocked when Cyril pulled out his phone and showed viewers how much money he is making through this new money-making programme that “now has everyone in South Africa whispering”.
It is comical that the scammers behind this story cannot keep their fairy tale consistent and get basic names and currencies wrong.
“The segment ran out of time before Francois could elaborate, so we got an exclusive interview with the man himself to learn more about this controversial opportunity,” according to the fake article before switching names to Ramaphosa again.
“You may have heard about this new cryptocurrency investment platform called Bitcoin Loophole that’s helping regular people in South Africa, Asia, and North America build fortunes overnight. You may be skeptical because it sounds too good to be true.”
They quote Ramaphosa as saying: “I get that because I thought the same thing when a trusted friend told me about it. But after seeing with my own eyes how much money he was making, I had to try it for myself.
“I’m glad I tried it because it was some of the biggest and easiest money I’ve ever made. I’m talking tens of thousands of ringgit a day on autopilot,” Ramaphosa reportedly said, with the writers getting the currency wrong.
“It’s literally the fastest way to make a windfall of cash right now,” our president apparently said. “And it’s not going to last for much longer when more and more people find out about it. Or when banks shut it down for good.”
The broker behind this feeble attempt, Traders Pros, says the system uses artificial intelligence (AI) to “automatically handle long and short selling for you so you can make money around the clock, even while you sleep”.
“The software uses advanced AI algorithms and machine learning to predict exactly [typed in bold in the article] when cryptocurrencies will go up and down. Then it will automatically buy and sell for you around the clock.”
The article says the system is backed by some of the smartest tech minds to ever exist, namely Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Bill Gates – “just to name a few”.
The article goes on to claim that the system was tested independently with a Daily Maverick sub-editor investing R4 250 of his own money. They claim that by the end of the first week he had made R84 541 in profit.
It doesn’t matter who you are …
The article continues to say how easy it is and shows that anybody can do it, irrespective of race or gender.
Nick Bekker, a white male from Soweto, made R129 318 within a month and Anika de Bruyn, a black female from Port Elizabeth, earns at least R42 000 per week and has made R312 318 to date.
The pitch says that it needs only three steps to wealth and happiness: open an account, fund your account and withdraw your profits.
It is more likely that only the first two steps are applicable in reality.
Website a further red flag
Submitting your name, email address and telephone number leads to the Traders Pros website, and it’s a website that does little to inspire confidence in would-be investors. The most basic of information is absent.
There is no information about the owners or operators of the “brokerage”, the country in which they are based, office addresses or management. Basic legally required disclosures are also absent.
All it says is that Traders Pros was founded by a team of professional traders and “algo-trading” experts, without identifying these experts.
The website publishes telephone numbers in Germany and the UK. After registering, different agents called to solicit funds, each giving a different answer of where Traders Pros is based. These ranged from Germany to the UK, Switzerland and Malaysia.
The UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) traced the operation to Hong Kong, according to a warning it issued about Traders Pros in February 2021. It also warned that such entities continuously change their addresses and contact details.
Authorities making headway
The telephone calls from Traders Pros’ agents indicate that regulators are making headway in warning people about unregistered and dubious operators in that agents were briefed with an apt response to questions about registering with financial authorities.
A broker that targets South Africans with similar get-rich-quick articles, Primefin, tries to convince people that it does not need to register as a Financial Services Provider (FSP) with the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) in SA, because it is incorporated under the laws of Labuan in Malaysia and is regulated by the Labuan Financial Services Authority (LFSA).
They argue that LFSA rules supersede FSCA regulations because they are stricter than our local rules.
This is untrue. The FSCA confirmed to Moneyweb that anybody who wants to offer financial services in SA needs to register with the FSCA and must comply with local legislation.
Traders Pros takes it one step further. They solved the problem of pesky regulators by seemingly creating their own financial authority. The Global Financial Authority (GFA) is supposed to supersede all the rules and regulations of all countries in the world.
The GFA website looks remarkably similar to the Traders Pros site and is equally economical with information. Parts of the website seem to be copied from that of the UK authority.
The GLA claims that it is a conduct regulator for over 15 000 financial markets and financial services firms worldwide and the practical supervisor of 34 268 companies that sets specific standards for thousands of other firms. It discloses no affiliation to any official regulatory authority, nor does it note the legislation it supposedly enforces.
It copies several paragraphs directly from the UK FCA site, such as: “We are an independent public body funded entirely by the clients we regulate by asking them to pay fees. We are liable to the Treasury, which is responsible for the country’s financial system, and to the Parliament” and the “UK financial services employ millions of people and contribute billions in tax to the UK economy. If UK markets work well, competitively and fairly, they benefit customers, staff, shareholders, and everyone in the country as well, and maintain confidence in the UK as a major global financial hub.”
Of interest are the sections on the GFA website that offer assistance to online brokers wanting to switch clients and retain clients.
A lot of crooks around
There are a lot of crooks around, punting investments in Bitcoin, secret bank accounts and trading foreign exchange. They are easy to identify by their unrealistic claims.
Another dubious scheme, Bitcoin Revolution, want us to believe that Gerret Hendrickson, a financial advisor, says: “People need to understand just how valuable these accounts are ― they’re easily the most powerful tool to protecting and growing your money, and now that they’re available to the public, you’d be crazy not to jump in as soon as possible.”
Garret goes on to say that these accounts “have no fees, they’re risk-free and fully insured ― and they’re currently earning 200x, depending on leverage, higher returns than stocks, bonds or any other asset class available to retail investors. There’s just no reason for anyone to pass up an opportunity like that”.
Apparently, Bitcoin Revolution’s computers are cleverer than others.
“Bitcoin Revolution depends on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms. These algorithms have the potential to read both quantitative and qualitative data at a win rate of up to 98%. To put this into context, the world-leading human trader has a win rate of about 48%,” according to its fake newspaper articles.
Once again, investors are urged to hurry as only limited places are available. By coincidence, there are also only 37 places left here.
Don’t hurry. Ask the agents promoting these schemes a few questions first, like: If these programs work so well, why are you not doing it? Why are you sitting in a call centre instead of cruising the world on your yacht while your trading bots make you rich?