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SEC: Beware of impersonator

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission warned investors Thursday to beware of a group calling itself "U.S. Securities and Equities Administration."

The entity, which also identifies as "U.S. Securities Administration" or the "U.S. Securities Bureau," is not an United States government agency and is not associated with the actual Securities and Exchange Commission, the SEC said.

While the group has not yet been officially accused of illegal activity, regulators suspect it may be involved in a so-called advance-fee fraud.

The SEC said it "appears" the entity may be requesting up-front fees to remove restrictions on shares of stock that investors own. It may also ask for money to release funds purportedly being held by the government on investors' behalf.

Based on conversations with investors, the SEC said the group may be based in Boston. Online, the group has a website at www.gov.ussea.us. Though there is an official-looking seal, the only contact information listed is an e-mail address. The group did not immediately respond to an e-mail requesting comment.

In a mission statement posted on the site, the USEA said it's "major policy" is to supervise and implement "all federal securities laws which are related to Mergers and Acquisitions."

The group promotes "correct and appropriate information," according to the statement. It is also interested in "protecting the interests of the investors while interacting with corporate and legal organizations they meet and get involved during the process."

The statement goes on to assert that "reliability and ethical premises are the basics of a respectable and serious market development." As a final thought, the statement says "fraudulent activities damage not only the integrity of the market, but also destroy client's trust."

By contrast, the mission of the actual SEC is in part "to protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation."

The SEC has identified a number of ongoing investment scams in which con artists have used the names of real SEC employees to trick victims into sharing access to their brokerage accounts or revealing private information. In some cases, the SEC said, victims have even sent perpetrators money and other assets.

The SEC said one of the main characteristics of such scams is the use of Web sites and e-mail addresses ending in ".us" or ".org" and containing ".gov" in the middle of the domain address.

Legitimate government agencies have website and e-mail addresses that end only with ".gov", ".mil" or "fed.us". To top of page

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