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Investing FAQs


The questions and answers on this page are common questions BC Securities Commission (BCSC) Contact Centre staff field in their daily work. If you want to follow up on one of these questions, contact BCSC Contact Centre.

Most Commonly Asked Questions

Not all crypto is the same. A cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin, is just computer code with little or no connection to cash-generating products or services. While access to the crypto asset market has become readily available to anyone, that doesn’t mean it’s the best investment option for everyone.

Crypto assets are considered high-risk investments that come with little investor protection because not all crypto assets are securities. Crypto assets can be bought and sold on crypto asset trading platforms. These platforms are newer firms that may not have controls to keep your money safe. Many exchanges are based outside of Canada, making it difficult to recover your money. That said, it’s a smarter decision to use platforms that are registered with Canadian securities regulators – they have legal obligations around safeguarding customers’ accounts. Still, if a platform ignores its obligations, your money could be in jeopardy.

You can see a current list of crypto trading platforms authorized to do business with Canadians here.

You can see a list of banned crypto trading platforms here.

Learn more about how to invest in crypto wisely.

The BCSC is the provincial agency that strives to make the investment markets benefit the public – enabling people to achieve their financial goals, enterprises to grow, and BC to thrive. We create and enforce rules to keep the investment marketplace fair, honest, and resilient, and adapt those rules in response to new risks, new investment products, and new business models.

When the rules are violated, we strive to return illegal gains back to victims. We hold the wrongdoers accountable through monetary penalties and banishment from the investment markets.

We want people to feel empowered about investing so they see it as a sound way to achieve their financial goals. So we demystify investing by sharing unbiased, reliable information about categories of securities, ways to invest, and pitfalls to avoid.

Learn more about the BCSC.

Check registration by searching the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) website. The National Registration Search page will show current and historical registration history for individuals and firms, including any terms and conditions that might be in place.

Please include the following information in your complaint:

  • Your name and contact information.
  • Information about the company/individual who is the subject of the complaint.
  • The timeline of the complaint.
  • Whether other regulatory agencies have been contacted and, if so, which ones.
  • A narrative of the complaint.
  • Any documents or sources relevant to your complaint.

Read more about filing a complaint or contact BCSC Contact Centre for assistance with making a complaint.

Investment fraud happens when bad actors successfully persuade and compel investors to make investment decisions based on false information. You could lose all of your money in an investment fraud.

Learn about how to avoid investment fraud.

If you believe you may have lost money due to investment fraud or other investment market misconduct, we encourage you to file a complaint with the BCSC. The sooner we hear from you, the sooner we can take possible action.

Learn about how to report fraud or misconduct.

No, the BCSC cannot recommend or give advice on investments.

However, the BCSC can:

  • Answer general questions about investment products and services.
  • Tell you if an investment firm or representative is registered in BC.
  • Tell you if the BCSC, or another securities regulator, has disciplined an individual or company.
  • Suggest options for pursuing a complaint and tell you which organization may be of the most help.

The BCSC isn’t funded by taxpayers. Instead, it gets its funding mostly from fees paid by companies issuing shares, investment funds, and individuals in the business of buying and selling securities.

Sometimes investors lose money because of an action or inaction made by their investment firm, and those investors may seek financial compensation from their investment firm. For example, your firm might have recommended investments that are unsuitable for you based on the information you gave them.

Learn about how to get your money back if you have suffered financial loss.

Share transfers to family members or family trusts will normally require the estate’s executor to initiate the transfer of said shares from the name of the deceased into the name of the executor(s) or beneficiary(ies).

Visit this website for further guidance.

Crypto Questions

The BCSC cannot recommend or give advice on investments.

If you’re going to buy crypto, it’s wise to use a registered crypto asset trading platform. In Canada, many platforms are currently not registered with securities regulators. It’s in your best interest to conduct a background check on any crypto asset trading platform, fund, or company that may be of interest to you. You can check to see if the platform you plan to use is registered by conducting a search on the CSA's National Registration Search. The CSA also maintains a current list of crypto trading platforms authorized to do business with Canadians. See the list here.

The CSA maintains a current list of crypto trading platforms authorized to do business with Canadians. See the list here.

In general, possessing or holding a cryptocurrency is not taxable. But there could be tax consequences when you do any of the following:

  • Sell or make a gift of cryptocurrency.
  • Trade or exchange cryptocurrency, including disposing of one cryptocurrency to get another cryptocurrency.
  • Convert cryptocurrency to government-issued currency, such as Canadian dollars.
  • Use cryptocurrency to buy goods or services.

For more information on the tax treatment of cryptocurrency, check out the Government of Canada’s guide.

Crypto asset prices can be very volatile and can increase or decrease by small or large amounts many times during the day. No crypto asset investment is guaranteed, so there’s a very real possibility that you could lose all your money.

If you’ve lost your money through investing online with crypto assets, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to recover the lost funds.

If you’ve lost your money because of a potential investment fraud, contact the BCSC immediately. It’s important to understand though that some crypto assets fall under BC securities law, while others may not.

Investment Questions

The BC Corporate Registry maintains records that may include name changes, location of records offices, past and present directors, and any articles of amendment for companies registered in British Columbia. If the company no longer exists, you may be able to find someone involved in scripophily, the study and collection of stocks and bonds, to purchase your old stock certificate.

If you feel you need help or want support in choosing investments and managing your money, a registered investment advisor can help you get started on your investing journey. It’s important to note that an investment advisor that sells securities, such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or exchange-traded funds must be registered with a provincial securities regulator.

Learn about working with a registered investment advisor.

In addition to traditional investment firms with in-person investment advisors, there are other investment service providers available for you to use if you choose, such as robo-advising and self-directed investing.

Watch this video to learn about robo-advising and self-directed investing.

For more information about how to get started with investing, watch our free video-based resource called Get Started with Investing.

You don’t need a large sum of money to start investing, but you do need to make sure you’re in an appropriate financial position that allows you to be comfortable with the risks that can come with investing.

In order to figure out the dollar amount you have to start investing, consider your current financial position, such as your income, expenses, emergency fund, any debt you may have, and if you have dependents. Once you’ve taken this into account, any money you have remaining can be put toward investing – whether it’s $5 or $1,000, or anything less, more, and in between.

Take our Investor vs. Saver Quiz.

There are a few options when it comes to investment accounts, and the one you choose depends on your financial goals.

You can open an investment account that will allow you to buy, sell, and hold investments. In this account, you are taxed on your gains.

You may have also heard of Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs), Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs), Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs), and Tax-Free First Home Savings Accounts (FHSAs). Each of these specialized accounts allow you to hold investments, and have certain requirements that you need to know about. These accounts also allow you to hold investments, not just cash.

Over time, you may find yourself using more than one of these accounts. It will depend on your financial goals and needs.

Learn more about the different types of investment accounts.

Fees are a part of investing. All fees reduce your returns, so you need  to know what they are, what you’ll get for them, when you’ll pay them, and where they’ll be deducted.

There are different types of fees you can expect to pay, including trading, advisor, and management fees.

Watch this video to understand investment fees.

Learn more about fees and other charges.

Learn about advisor compensation.

To qualify as an accredited investor, an individual must have at least one of the following financial qualifications: 

  • At least $1 million in financial assets (cash and securities) before taxes, net of any debts. Your home and/or any other real estate you own are not considered financial assets. 
  • Net income before taxes of more than $200,000 consistently over the past two years ($300,000 when combined with a spouse’s net income). 
  • Net assets of at least $5 million. Net assets exclude all liabilities.

Learn more about the accredited investor exemption and other exemptions.

We have five key fraud warning signs that you should look out for when you’re approached with an investment opportunity so that you can protect yourself and others from investment fraud.

Learn about the five key fraud warning signs.

A mutual fund is a pool of money that’s invested in a number of different securities for a large number of investors by a professional money manager, and entitles you to redeem your units at the end of each trading day.

Learn more about mutual funds.

An ETF, or exchange-traded fund, is a fund that holds the same mix of investments as a stock or bond market index and trades on a stock exchange.

Learn more about ETFs.

Advisor/Dealer Questions

Choosing and working with an advisor is an important part of being an informed investor. Read the Working with a Registered Investment Advisor section for guidance on choosing an advisor who’s right for you, and working with that person to fulfill your investment goals.

No, but we can give you guidance on choosing an advisor who is suitable for you and your investment situation. Take some time to read the How to Choose an Investment Advisor section on InvestRight.

Company Questions

If you recently lost money on your crypto assets, an offer to recover your lost funds may sound very appealing. If they already have your information, it’s likely this offer came from the same scammers and is designed to extract more money out of you.  

While there are some legitimate recovery services that can help you trace or try and recover your lost funds, the majority of them are scams.

Unlike public companies, private companies don’t have to issue a formal prospectus. Without the information provided in a prospectus or ongoing disclosure that regulators require from public companies, you will have to gather information about the company yourself in order to make an informed decision. Be sure to find out as much as possible about its management team, financial situation, viability as a business, and financing activity.

Before you invest, read what InvestRight has to say about investing in private placements.

Unless expressly permitted in the order, BC residents may not trade in the securities of a cease-traded company until the CTO has been revoked by the BCSC. CTOs remain in effect until a company files the required documentation and the BCSC revokes the order. If an order remains outstanding for more than 90 days, the company must provide additional disclosure and comply with National Policy 12-202 Revocation of Certain Cease Trade Orders.

If there are no exceptions applicable to your situation, you have two options:

  1. Hold onto your shares in case the CTO is revoked; or
  2. Consider claiming a capital loss on your income taxes.

To raise capital without becoming a public company, you can rely on several exemptions. The BCSC cannot tell you which exemption is appropriate for your needs, but the Private & Early Stage Businesses section on the website contains a summary of the exemptions on which you can rely. Consider obtaining some legal advice to help you.

SEDAR+ (System for Electronic Document Analysis and Retrieval) is a mandatory filing system for Canadian public companies. SEDAR+ provides free public access to continuous disclosure filings, including prospectus documents and financial statements.

You can also check the status of BC companies on the Reporting Issuers List.

To see if a company is cease-traded, check the National Cease Trade Order Database, or any outstanding or historical orders issued by the BCSC.

EDGAR (Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval system) is the US equivalent for researching public companies listed on an American stock exchange.

SEDI (System for Electronic Disclosure by Insiders) is a mandatory filing system that collects the reports of all share transactions made by people who are considered insiders of a company. Regulators monitor insider trading to ensure securities regulations are followed. This is available at no cost to the public.

Shareholder Questions

The BCSC does not review or approve corporate governance issues such as the valuation and fairness of a transaction to shareholders.

If directors are proposing a transaction that may be to the detriment of shareholders, it is up to the shareholders to choose to vote against the proposal, or pursue their rights under the Business Corporations Act. The relevant exchange may also review the transaction under its policies.

You may wish to consider consulting with a lawyer if you are pursuing your shareholder rights and remedies or the return of your invested funds. You can obtain a referral to a lawyer by contacting [email protected].

If you invested less than $35,000, you may also wish to consider pursuing civil remedies through Small Claims Court proceedings.

There are no specific requirements in securities legislation around holding an annual general meeting. Annual general meetings are a requirement under the Business Corporations Act. The relevant exchange may also have requirements regarding the timely holding of annual general meetings.

You may wish to consider consulting with a lawyer if you are pursuing your shareholder rights and remedies. You can obtain a referral to a lawyer by contacting  [email protected].

A cease-traded company must submit its missing filings and apply to remove a cease-trade order. If the company has been cease-traded for more than 90 days, the company will be subject to a review by BCSC staff. The company may be required to re-file if the statements need clarification.

If you hold securities of a cease-traded company, and you wish to trade those securities (e.g. disposition to realize a tax loss), you should review the relevant cease trade order and seek advice from a trusted professional. The BCSC has also issued relief so that clients may sell securities of a dormant issuer subject to a cease trade order to their investment dealer, if certain conditions are met.

If a company is not responding to your inquiries, you may wish to consider consulting with a lawyer for advice. You can obtain a referral to a lawyer by contacting [email protected].

The terms and conditions regarding redemptions should be contained in documents provided to you at the time of purchase. Exempt market (a.k.a. private placement market) products may have specific terms for redemption.

You may want to contact the company to discuss its terms regarding redemptions.

If a company is not responding to your inquiries, you may wish to consider consulting with a lawyer for advice. You can obtain a referral to a lawyer by contacting [email protected].

An investment made through the private placement market will not offer the protections available in public investment markets.

This means:

  • You may not get detailed disclosure about the company and will not have the involvement of a registered investment advisor. The BCSC does not review the disclosure from these companies. 
  • You may not get ongoing and timely disclosure from the company, either before or after you invest. 
  • You may not get audited financial statements from the company before you invest. 

Learn more about the private placement market.

Questions About Filing Complaints

Please include the following information in your complaint:

  • Your name and contact information.
  • Information about the company/individual who is the subject of the complaint.
  • The timeline of the complaint.
  • Whether other regulatory agencies have been contacted and, if so, which ones.
  • A narrative of the complaint.
  • Any documents or sources relevant to your complaint.

Read more about filing a complaint or contact BCSC Contact Centre for assistance with making a complaint.

Yes. While the BCSC would like to obtain as much contact information as possible from anyone making a complaint, we will accept complaints from individuals who have not provided their name or contact information. Please consider, though, that the success of an investigation often depends on locating people with first-hand knowledge of the alleged wrongdoing.

You can use the BCSC's online complaint form to report your concerns about possible investment scams or visit the Report Fraud or Misconduct section to learn more about filing a complaint with the BCSC.

Before pursuing action with a regulator, raise your concerns with the person who handles your account.

If you are unable to resolve matters with your advisor, ask the firm for information about its formal complaint process. In most cases, the next step is to write a letter to the firm’s branch manager or compliance officer. The firm should acknowledge receipt of your letter, investigate your complaint, and then inform you of the outcome.

If you are not satisfied with the registered firm’s response, then you can complain to an independent dispute resolution service called the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investment (OBSI). OBSI is independent from registered firms and provides impartial and informal reviews of investment disputes. OBSI’s services are free for you to use, and it can recommend compensation of up to $350,000.

You can complain directly to OBSI if the registered firm does not send you its written decision within 90 days. If the registered firm sends you its written decision within 90 days, then you have 180 days to complain to OBSI.

You can make an online complaint to OBSI here. You may also contact OBSI by telephone or in writing, and if needed, OBSI provides accessibility tools to assist individuals with disabilities.

If your firm is a member of the Canadian Investment Regulatory Organization (CIRO), you may also want to raise your complaint with them. A directory of member firms is available on CIRO's website.

If the registered firm you are dealing with is a portfolio manager, an exempt market dealer, or a scholarship plan dealer, then contact the BCSC through our Report Fraud or Misconduct page or BCSC Contact Centre.

If you are concerned that you may be the victim of a fraud or theft committed by your dealer or salesperson, you may wish to contact your local police agency to file a complaint. If you need further assistance, please contact BCSC Contact Centre.

The BCSC reviews complaints made against individuals or companies involved in trading securities in BC. The BCSC evaluates the actions of these individuals and companies for possible breaches of provisions of the Securities Act. The BCSC may refer some complaints to other agencies, where appropriate.

Read more about filing complaints in the Report Fraud or Misconduct section.

Enforcement Questions

The BCSC has the power to make various orders relating to money and enforcement that staff frequently apply for these types of orders. For example, before a hearing the BCSC can issue orders to freeze funds. After a hearing, if someone has contravened the Securities Act, the BCSC can order that person to pay the BCSC the amount they obtained, or amounts they avoided paying, from the misconduct. Any funds collected under this type of order would be repaid to investors.

For more information, review the BCSC's Returning Funds to Investors page.

You should speak to your lawyer about what steps you can take to try and get your money back. Depending on the type and amount of your claim, you may be able to start a lawsuit in a Provincial Court (Small Claims Court) or in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. You should speak to your lawyer (Lawyer Referral Service) as soon as possible because there may be a limitation period, after which you may not be able to start a lawsuit.

BCSC public enforcement and administrative actions can be viewed on the BCSC public website, in the Enforcement section. You’ll also find information on individuals and companies the BCSC disciplined in the Investment Caution List and the Disciplined List. You can contact BCSC Contact Centre for further information.

The Securities Act prohibits the BCSC from investigating complaints about events that occurred six years ago or more. Please see the Securities Act (sections 140 and 159) for more information about the limitation period.

In BC, your shareholder rights and remedies are contained in the Business Corporations Act.

Only eligible applicants can make a claim for money collected pursuant to an order made by a BCSC administrative panel that resulted in a claims process. An eligible applicant is a person who:

  • suffered monetary loss as a direct result of misconduct that resulted in an order that gave rise to a claims process under the Securities Act;
  • did not directly or indirectly engage in the misconduct that resulted in the order that gave rise to a claims process; or
  • has not been denied a claim under section 7.4 (6) of the Securities Regulation.

Learn more about returning funds to investors.

Crypto Quiz

Test Your Crypto Asset Knowledge.

This quiz is designed to introduce you to the basics of crypto assets. It is not intended to provide investment or financial advice, and should not be relied upon as a substitute for such advice.

Cryptocurrencies and blockchain are the same thing.