By Denise A. Valdez, Reporter

THE Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has found five more illegal investment groups luring the public into investment scams.

In separate advisories on the SEC website, the country’s corporate regulator warned the public against engaging with Sakto Online Advertising; Lao Razon Trading/Lao Razon Marketing; Cryptec by Point Place, Ltd.; V2R Trades; and Cryptopeso.

All these groups, it said, do not have licenses from the SEC to authorize them to sell securities. It noted each of their offers are equivalent to selling securities as they involve selling investment contracts.

In the case of Sakto Online Advertising, whose main office is located in the Isabela province, the group invites people to invest as low as P198 in exchange for P300 worth of detergent powders. Investors may earn more by signing up as retailers or referring more investors, and by earning points to warrant them incentive bonuses such as watches, cellphones, laptops or cars.

Lao Razon Trading/Lao Razon Marketing operates through rice trading. It invites the public to invest at least P500 and up to P5 million in exchange of 30-500% compounding income in one to six months. Referral commissions and material incentives also apply if members get to invite more investors.

Cryptec was identified by the SEC as a non-licensed offshore crypto-currency broker from the Commonwealth of Dominica. It operates by selling accounts on its web-based trading platform which promises 50-150% trading bonus or income.

Dumaguete-based V2R Trades also engages in online investments, offering packages of as low as P5,700 and as high as P285,000 in exchange of daily rewards of P50-5,000. It also offers referral and bonus rewards based on the entry package availed by an investor.

Cryptopeso also engages in mobile token wallets through a mobile application launched with the PHP Staking Program. It was identified as being operated by Blockxperts, Inc., which was founded by the chief innovative officer of a certain Indigen. It asks for a minimum investment of P2,000 and an activation fee of P500, which will be converted into profit shares that will be locked in the program for three, six, 12 or 24 months.

As all these groups did not get licenses to sell securities from the regulator, the SEC said people operating behind them may be fined up to P5 million, imprisoned for up to 21 years, or both.

It also noted violators must be careful of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which punishes people engaged in cyber activities that exploit the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis through scams, phishing, fraudulent e-mails, or other similar acts.

“The public must be mindful that such unregulated entities are completely unaccountable for the way they handle their businesses, and often, these entities tend to disappear after quite some time to the prejudice of their investors,” the SEC said.

“Thus, the public is encouraged to make conscious effort before making or placing their investments in any investment scheme offered by said entities especially during these difficult times,” it added.