You pick up the phone. Hello? Hello? Hello! Nothing at the other end but empty space. It could be a:

  • Charity canvasser
  • Local political candidate
  • Licensed investment advisor
  • Pollster
  • Boiler room shyster

That empty space at the end of the line probably means the call is being connected to a call centre. It could be at the other end of the country, or it could be half-way around the world. If you don’t hang up, then you’re on your way to talking to someone who wants to sell you something. If that someone is a boiler room shyster, he probably has a golden tongue, a sham investment, and only one thing in mind: separating you from your hard-earned savings as quickly as possible.

We want you to know the rules of engagement for avoiding boiler room scams.

Rule 1: Hang up. If you’ve walked a fair ground midway or attended a fund-raising lunch, you know that once you start listening, your hand is already on your wallet.

Rule 2:  If you don’t hang up, ask questions:

Are you registered to sell ___ in Canada? To sell investments to you in Canada, a person must be registered by your local securities regulator, either directly or through the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada. A caller offering a real estate investment would have to be registered with a provincial real estate regulator or council.

What is your name and the name of your firm? If you can’t get this information, hang up. No need to be polite. But if the caller gives it to you, you can look him or her up.

What is your phone number? Tell the caller it’s your policy to do your own due diligence before buying any investment and that, if you’re interested, you will call him back after looking up his name/firm. If you can’t get this information—you guessed it—hang up!

Rule 3: If you think you’ve been called by a boiler room operation, report it. You may think that nothing will come of your effort, or that with nothing lost there’s nothing to gain by reporting. But boiler room operations are huge international businesses, and your tip could set off an investigation that could save thousands of others from losing their life savings.

Find out more about boiler room scams: Boiler room scams: Could you be vulnerable? How they work, what to watch for, what you can do to protect yourself. New from the Canadian Securities Administrators.

Lifting the lid on “boiler room” scams, The Guardian. Former boiler room employee tells it like it is.

Experienced investors are most common boiler room victims. Investor alert from the UK’s Financial Services Authority, includes first-person story by a boiler room victim

Boiler Room – the movie. Live the pain of being scammed without getting hurt by watching this cautionary tale.

If you have any concerns about a person or company offering an investment opportunity, please contact BCSC Inquiries at 604-899-6854 or 1-800-373-6393 or through e-mail at [email protected]. You can also file a complaint or submit a tip anonymous using BCSC’s online complaint form. is the BCSC’s investor education website. Subscribe to receive email updates from BCSC InvestRight.

Suggested Reading

5 Investing Traps to Watch out for in 2020

Genius Funds: A sad state of affairs

Burnaby library presentation Pt. 2: questions and answers

More Resources

BCSC launches three-year InvestRight “Be Fraud Aware” campaign

It will come as no surprise that we continue to identify investment fraud as the greatest risk to BC investors, which is why we announced a three-year awareness campaign today to teach investors how to recognize and report fraud. Here are the facts. Research tells us that 48% of British Columbians have been approached with […]

Scope of BC and Alberta’s private capital markets

We have talked about the importance of small and medium sized businesses to Canada and in particular to western Canada. We have pointed out that certain types of small businesses, nicknamed “gazelles,” are net job creators that require capital to focus on growth and R&D. We have pointed out that traditional sources of capital from […]