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Sebi probes SMS scam promising huge ‘option’ returns


New Delhi: A major investment scam has come under the scanner of markets watchdog Sebi where gullible investors were being lured through SMSes and WhatsApp with promise of multi-fold returns from ‘options’ trading, while betting on important policy decisions, including of RBI.

The modus operandi involved reaching out to potential investors through social media and SMSes in which fraudsters sought investments of Rs 5-10 lakh with promise that returns could be as high as Rs 75 lakh within a day or two.

The fraud came to light early this month when SMSes were being sent out that “a capital investment of Rs 5 lakh in bank index options ahead of the RBI’s monetary policy review” could earn a profit of as much as Rs 75 lakh just in a day.

RBI held its last monetary policy review on June 2, where it lowered its policy rate for the third time this year.

While a rate cut was widely expected, the markets had seen a huge volatility around the RBI review with punters making huge profits on each move in the stocks and indices.

According to a senior official, capital markets watchdog Sebi is keeping a hawk’s eye vigil on investment scams being perpetrated through SMSes, WhatsApp and the various social media platforms.

Sebi has also launched an SMS investor awareness campaign, wherein the investors are being warned against falling prey to fraudulent claims of huge returns.

A number of cases have come under Sebi’s scanner where the investors are being lured through SMSes, while the modus operandi of such fraudsters involves use of different mobile numbers for spreading such messages.

The official said that Sebi, using the powers granted to it last year, is seeking details from the mobile operators about the users of such numbers. Besides, it is getting details from the banks about the account numbers in which such investors are asked to deposit the money, mostly through online transfers.

One big racket that has come under the scanner was luring the investors in the name of the expected rate cut decision of RBI, just before the monetary policy review on June 2.

The same set of persons have also been found to be involved in some other sets of SMSes wherein the investors were being promised profits ranging from Rs 8 lakh to Rs 18 lakh within two days through stock options, on investments of Rs 1-2 lakh.

Sebi has already busted some cases where some persons were found offering unauthorised ‘trading tips’ through Short Message Service (SMS) and WhatsApp messages via mobile phones, while there are instances where debarred persons have again hit the market using new names and newly created entities.

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