By Denise A. Valdez, Reporter

THE Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is warning the public against investing in groups looking to take advantage of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis.

In a statement yesterday, the SEC said there are at least 14 groups that have been flagged for trying to lure the public into unauthorized investment activities since the coronavirus outbreak started last month.

These include MAGINVESTKA.ONLINE (MIK.O), Azenzo-Online, and President: Rodrigo Duterte Charity Foundation, which have come up with different schemes to attract investors.

MIK.O is supposedly operated by persons using the the pseudonym “Mag Forex,” and invites the public to invest in bitcoin trading to get a 2% daily return.

The operations of Azenzo-Online is likened to that of alleged investment scam Kapa-Community Ministry International, such that investors are promised a 30% return in five to 15 days and a 100% “donation return” in 20 days.

Other operators that the SEC flagged are Bitrade/Bitrade Bitcoin Trading Ltd./Bitrade Limited Ph; Bitcoin Revolution; E-Commerce, House of Entrepreneurs, Inc.; and Fast Track Worldwide, Inc.

The regulator said all these corporations do not have the required SEC license to sell securities by offering investment opportunities.

Another dangerous scheme it found was a text scam that uses the name of President Rodrigo R. Duterte. It works by sending texts to people that he/she has won P750,000 in an electronic raffle, then asks for the recipient’s personal information to claim the prize.

The SEC said persons behind these operators, whether salesmen, brokers, dealers or agents, may be penalized with a maximum fine of P5 million or imprisonment of up to 21 years, or both.

“We encourage the public to carefully study and examine offers and invitations to participate in schemes promising easy money especially in these difficult times,” SEC Chairperson Emilio B. Aquino said in the statement.

“On our part, the Commission will continue monitoring investment-solicitation activities online and on the ground to stop unscrupulous groups from putting any other burden on Filipinos, especially the vulnerable, amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.