Okay, that's not actually true, but the agency has constructed a clever campaign meant to teach investors how to identify ICO scams - and troll the fraudsters who continue to operate them.
The website, HoweyCoins.com, uses numerous same sales tactics used by fraudulent ICOs. In an effort to save consumers the turmoil of getting caught up in one of these scams, the SEC created "HoweyCoin" under the guise of an ICO that's partnered with the travel industry. However, the U.S. agency is not content with dealing with fraudulent ICOs after the fact and instead hopes to educate investors to prevent such scams being successful in the first place.
The site, HoweyCoins.com, mimics a coin offering, proclaiming, "Combining the two most growth-oriented segments of the digital economy - blockchain technology and travel, HoweyCoin is the newest and only coin offering that captures the magic of coin trading profits AND the excitement and guaranteed returns of the travel industry".
By creating a scam ICO that seems literally too good to be true.
HoweyCoins was so named as a reference to the Howey test, which is used to determine whether or not a transaction is an investment contract. When clicking through there is even a white page and a list of (fake) celebrity investors but when the Buy Coins Now button is clicked the user is brought to a page outlining the scam.
SEC has launched a spoof Initial Coin Offering (ICO) website in a bid to educate and warn investors of the dangers posed by the ICO Wild West. HoweyCoin claims to trade on an SEC-compliant market where users can buy and sell for profit. "But fraudulent sites also often have red flags that can be dead giveaways if you know what to look for".
"The fact that our staff could put something together that looks just like an ICO in very little time and with very little resources shows how little you have to put into this to market a token", Clayton said. There's a massive countdown timer to the pre-ICO, for example. The ICO presents investors with a lifetime chance of making money from "sun-soaked beaches and crystal-clear waters".
HoweyCoins will partner with all segments of the travel industry (air, hotel, vehicle rental, and luxury segments), earning coins you can trade for profit instead of points.
The site goes on to make various grandiose claims about how they're targeting the travel industry, how they're registered with the USA government, and how the coins will be traded on an SEC-compliant exchange. Below the team section, you'll find testimonials from "real celebrities" - including fake professional boxers and fake famous drummers.
In a statement, Owen Donley, chief counsel of the SEC's Office of Investor Education and Advocacy, said that the site incorporates numerous hallmarks of fraudulent token sales - pertinent information for investors looking to avoid financial pitfalls.