Ask Paul: I thought I was buying shares in an IPO - have I been scammed?


Dear Paul,

How can I check if I have been scammed?

I have bought what I hope are shares in an IPO for Breakthrough Energy and Nvidia (NYSE) through Global Financial Equity Advisors, apparently based in Perth.

ask paul clitheroe i thought i was buying shares in an ipo have i been scammed

Through subsequent dealings, I have become a little suspicious. How can I check their validity and if necessary recover funds? - Sean

Uh oh. I am nervous already Sean. If you were cold-called by this firm and invested on this basis and email information, I will go from nervous to seriously concerned.

A lot of share scams involve so-called New York Stock Exchange IPOs (Initial Public Offering).

Part of the issue is that an IPO is what its name says - an "Initial" stage of the company and details may be hard to find, so the scammer provides reams of quality looking company information.

There is a US Tech giant called Nvidia, which has a market capitalisation of some $650 billion. It seems odd to offer an IPO in an existing, huge listed company.

In 2015, Bill Gates founded Breakthrough Energy. It invests in sustainable energy initiatives. Again, I am unsure why it would involve an IPO.

Their correspondence should contain information regarding your investments, including a share registry, which contains details. If not, I would go to the ACCC website and look at Be Safe, be Alert Online, which provides helpful details.

I see that Global Financial Equity Advisors has a nice website, showing offices in Perth and London.

As they are dealing with the public, they should have a licence.

I checked the ASIC database and could not find them, but it's not impossible they are acting under another licence, but it should be in their information. They may be completely legitimate, in which case they will give you their licence details if you ask. One thing that worries me is the lack of directors or key staff on their site. Most legitimate companies are eager to provide these details.

Once you have attempted to get a licence number, spoken to ASIC and the ACCC, would you let me know the result? Even if they are legitimate, I would argue that for an Australian investor, there are easier and better diversified ways to access US energy stocks such as an ETF.

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Paul Clitheroe AM is founder and editorial adviser of Money magazine. He is one of Australia's leading financial voices, responsible for bringing financial insight to Australians through personal finance books, the Money TV show, and this publication, which he established in 1999. Paul is the chair of the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board and is chairman of InvestSMART Financial Services. He is the chair of Financial Literacy at Macquarie University where he is also a Professor with the School of Business and Economics. Ask Paul your money question. Unfortunately Paul cannot respond to questions posted in the comments section. View our disclaimer.
Graeme Reardon
January 5, 2022 5.15pm

I also looked at this webpage and it has a Javascript Agent.OZD virus on it. I'd be very careful (meaning that I wouldn't) be completing any of the online forms on this site at all, or clicking any of the links provided. Fishy.

Jason D'lugi
March 22, 2022 11.28am

What was the outcome of Global financial equity advisors legit or Scam??

Sean Backhaus
June 14, 2022 2.22pm

I can't get in contact with the "broker" anymore, however have been contacted by an Attorney in the US, acting on behalf of a client wanting to buy my BEV shares, even though not public yet. SO they have my details from somewhere and hopefully I own something.

I must apologise as I didn't realise Paul responded. Only did a google search and came across this.

Linda Van
May 5, 2023 9.40am

Hi Sean & Paul, we have had the exact same thing happen to us, and we also had the site checked out by our computer guy and it had a virus in January 2022 as Graham Reardon stated in the comments above, and we got no response by email from the broker and when we rang the office were told that the company had never physically been at the Perth address, they whoever answered the phone had never heard of them. Then in March 2022 we were contacted by an attorney in the US - the same deal as you and we thought the same, maybe we do own something as they got our details from somewhere. We got legal and financial advice and were told it too was probably a scam so we didn't go through with it. Did you?? Have you been able to find out anything further???

Sean Backhaus
May 12, 2023 9.46am

Hi Linda,

I didn't proceed with the "First" Attorney as they followed up by saying there was warrants on the shares that I needed to execute first before selling. So they wanted a small amount from me before a promise of a larger amount from them.

Had a second one claim to be acting on behalf of another firm that bought all the BEV shares and I had to confirm my identity to them and they would send me the funds held in my name from the compulsory acquisition.

Googled them, the alleged company and only have single page websites pushing all further contact back to a mobile.

I told them on the phone that their contact to me appeared to be a means of gaining my identity and haven't heard from them since.

I did forward all the details including phone numbers to the consumer watchdog but didn't hear back.

Both were from US phone numbers.