Foreign exchange fraud

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Foreign exchange fraud is any trading scheme used to defraud traders by convincing them that they can expect to gain a high profit by trading in the foreign exchange market. Currency trading became a common form of fraud early 2008, according to Michael Dunn of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.[1]

The foreign exchange market is at best a zero–sum game,[2] meaning that whatever one trader gains, another loses. However, brokerage commissions and other transaction costs are subtracted from the results of all traders, making foreign exchange a negative-sum game.

US Government interventions[edit]

In August 2008, the CFTC set up a special task force to deal with growing foreign exchange fraud.[3] In January 2010, the CFTC proposed new rules limiting leverage to 10 to 1, based on " a number of improper practices" in the retail foreign exchange market, "among them solicitation fraud, a lack of transparency in the pricing and execution of transactions, unresponsiveness to customer complaints, and the targeting of unsophisticated, elderly, low net worth and other vulnerable individuals."[4]

In 2012, Christopher Ehrman, an SEC veteran, was selected to run the new SEC Office of the Whistleblower.[5]

Types of fraud[edit]

Frauds might include churning of customer accounts for the purpose of generating commissions, selling software that is supposed to guide the customer to large profits,[6] improperly managed "managed accounts",[7] false advertising,[8] Ponzi schemes and outright fraud.[9][10] It also refers to any retail forex broker who indicates that trading foreign exchange is a low risk, high profit investment.[11]

Increase in fraud[edit]

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which loosely regulates the foreign exchange market in the United States, has noted an increase in the amount of unscrupulous activity in the non-bank foreign exchange industry.[12] Between 2001 and 2006 the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission has prosecuted more than 80 cases involving the defrauding of more than 23,000 customers who lost $350 million. From 2001 to 2007, about 26,000 people lost $460 million in forex frauds.[1]

Not beating the market[edit]

The foreign exchange market is a zero sum game[2] in which there are many experienced, well-capitalized professional traders (e.g. working for banks) who can devote their attention full-time to trading. An inexperienced retail trader will have a significant information disadvantage compared to these traders.

Retail traders are, almost by definition, undercapitalized. Thus, they are subject to the problem of gambler's ruin. In a "Fair Game" (one with no information advantages) between two players that continues until one trader goes bankrupt, the player with the lower amount of capital has a higher probability of going bankrupt first. Since the retail speculator is effectively playing against the market as a whole, which has vastly more capital, they will almost certainly go bankrupt. The retail trader always pays the bid/ask spread which makes their odds of winning less than those of a fair game. Additional costs may include margin interest or, if a spot position is kept open for more than one day, the trade may be "resettled" each day, each time costing the full bid/ask spread. In some variations of foreign exchange trading, forex dealers serve as the counterparty to the contracts sold to the retail customer. The underlying contract is not traded on an actual exchange such as the Chicago Board of Trade, but rather entered into off-exchange. Thus, if the investor loses money, while the dealer makes money.[13]

Although it is possible for a few experts to successfully arbitrage the market for an unusually large return, this does not mean that a larger number could earn the same returns even given the same tools, techniques and data sources. This is because the arbitrages are essentially drawn from a pool of finite size; although information about how to capture arbitrages is a nonrival good, the arbitrages themselves are a rival good. (To draw an analogy, the total amount of buried treasure on an island is the same, regardless of how many treasure hunters have bought copies of the treasure map.)

High leverage[edit]

By offering high leverage some market makers encourage traders to trade extremely large positions. This increases the trading volume cleared by the market maker and increases their profit, but increases the risk that the trader will receive a margin call. While professional currency dealers such as banks and hedge funds tend to use no more than 10:1 leverage, retail clients may be offered leverage between 50:1 and 400:1.[14]

Fraud by country[edit]

To aid with transparency, some regulatory authorities publish in to public domain the following: list of regulated companies/firms, warnings to regulated companies, cases opened against regulated companies, fines levied to regulated companies, revocation of companies license as well as general news announcements.

United Kingdom[edit]

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) website lists guides to aid with avoiding fraud/scams as well as public list of warnings recorded by the FCA.

  • Official FCA Investment Firm Warning List
  • Online guide on how to avoid scams[15]
  • FCA Guide on how to report a scam[16]
  • FCA Investment Scam support website[17]
  • FCA News on Investment Firms[18]


The Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC) provides public access to information regarding the process for how to obtain a CIF authorisation as well as listed the current and past CySEC authorised companies.

  • List of current 'Cyprus Investment Firms' (CIFs)[19]
  • List of former Cyprus Investment Firms[20]
  • List of issued CySEC Warnings[21]
  • List of announced Board Decisions (including fines)[22]

Convicted scammers[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Lindsay, Daniel (2014-01-20). "Regulatory Holes Provide A Playground For Forex Fraudsters". Retrieved 2014-01-28. 
  2. ^ a b Douch, Nick (1989). The Economics of Foreign Exchange. Greenwood Press. pp. 87–90. ISBN 978-0-89930-499-1. 
  3. ^ "CFTC establishes task force on currency fraud". USA Today. Associated Press. 2007-08-11. Retrieved 2015-11-14. 
  4. ^ The Federal Register Section E. The Commission's Proposed Rules
  5. ^ Rachel Louise Ensign. "Q&A: Christopher Ehrman, Director, CFTC’s Whistleblower Office". WSJ. 
  6. ^ SOFTWARE VENDOR CHARGED CFTC News Release 4789-03, May 21, 2003
  7. ^ CFTC complaint Forex Advisory Firm and Trade Risk Management Firm Charged With Fraud
  8. ^ Fraud charges against multiple forex Firms Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Release: 4946-0
  9. ^ "Forex Fraud Investor Alert". North American Securities Administrators Association, accessed January 12, 2008
  10. ^ Foreign Currency Fraud Action Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) vs. Donald O’Neill
  11. ^ FOREX Advisory Commodity Futures Trading Commission's FOREIGN CURRENCY TRADING FRAUDS
  12. ^ Forex Information Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Forex Information for investors
  13. ^ "Foreign Exchange Controls". Top Forex News. Retrieved 17 December 2013. 
  14. ^ Egan, Jack (2005-06-19). "Check the Currency Risk. Then Multiply by 100". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-30. 
  15. ^ "How to avoid scams - Financial Conduct Authority". 
  16. ^ "Report a suspected scam". 
  17. ^ "Consumers - Financial Conduct Authority". 
  18. ^ "News". 
  19. ^ "Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission - INVESTMENT FIRMS (CYPRIOT)". 
  20. ^ "Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission - FORMER INVESTMENT FIRMS (CYPRIOT)". 
  21. ^ "Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission - CYSEC WARNINGS". 
  22. ^ "Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission - BOARD DECISIONS". 
  23. ^ "Poliisi - 404". 
  24. ^ Helsinki Times Over 700 criminal complaints on WinCapita -Finnish police, August 13, 2008

External links[edit]