While a ban is in the works, Manitobans continue to lose money to binary options fraudsters

Maria Nikolova

The provincial authority has received 17 reports from victims of binary options scams over the last four months.

The big news from Canada yesterday was the proposed nationwide prohibition of binary options. That announcement, however, was accompanied by some gloomy numbers about the continued rise in losses experienced by Canada’s investors due to the activities of unregulated binary options firms.

According to data from the Manitoba Securities Commission (MSC), released on April 26, 2017, the body has received 17 reports from binary options scam victims over the last four months. In April this year, a man from Portage La Prairie reported being defrauded of $130,000 to an offshore binary options firm, whereas a Southern Manitoba man has lost more than $300,000 for similar reasons.

The regulator notes that in 2015, there were four complaints from Manitobans about unregistered binary options firms. In 2016, that number surged to more than 58.

Commenting on the numbers, Jason Roy, a senior investigator with MSC, and chair of the Canadian Securities Administrators’ (CSA) Binary Options Fraud Task Force, said that binary options continue to be “the biggest investment scam targeting Manitobans”.

Mr Roy himself was targeted by a binary options firm in April 2016. A salesman who went by the name of Sean Bessi, called Mr Roy and introduced himself as a representative of a binary options brand Central Option. The salesman offered Mr Roy an “amazing investment opportunity”, although Central Option lacked the license to sell binary options products in the province of Manitoba.

“We are getting reports on this nearly every week, and for every report we receive, we know there are more people out there who haven’t come forward because of fear or embarrassment. And perhaps even worse, there are more people out there in Manitoba—and across Canada—right now who don’t realize they’re being conned”, Mr Roy said yesterday.

MSC, along with other provincial regulators, is proposing a nationwide ban on all sorts of offering of binary options (advertising, selling, trading, etc) to Canadians. The authors of the proposal note that non-fraudulent binary options pose significant risks to individuals too. For that matter, the ban is pretty straightforward – it will remove any ambiguity about the legality of binary options sales to Canadians, as these sales will be illegal.

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