SEC Director of Investor Education: ‘Don’t Flip A Coin’ Over Crypto Investments

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investor’s website published a light-hearted notice this week to all investors considering buying the “latest new cryptocurrency or token.”

Lori Schock, the Director of the SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy, wrote an informal post aimed at the everyday retail crypto investor, beginning with an anecdote from a visit to a retirement home where she spoke with senior citizens about investing.

According to Schock’s post, one senior citizen approached her after the lecture, asking:

“My children keep telling me I need to hurry up and invest in bitcoin—is it safe, have I already missed the boat?”

Schock’s light-toned post comes after a number of more serious statements from the SEC’s official website over the past year regarding the risks around Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) and detailed testimony on the roles of the SEC and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) regarding virtual currencies.

The SEC post explicitly says that Schock’s post is not investment advice on cryptocurrencies, but advice for those considering beginning an investment in the crypto market.

Schock underlines from the start how crypto investments do not fall under the SEC’s security protection laws, suggesting readers look at SEC Chairman Jay Clayton’s Dec. 2017 statement on crypto and ICOs for more information:

“You should understand if you lose money there is a real chance the SEC and other regulators won’t be able to help you recover your investment, even in cases of fraud.”

She then warns investors not fall for “high-pressure sales tactics” or to listen to celebrity endorsements as your basis for investment decision:

“Just because your favorite celebrity says a product or service is a good investment doesn’t mean it is.”

Schock’s note to investors about celebrity endorsements comes the same week that “Zen Master” Steven Seagal announced his brand ambassadorship with Bitcoiin2Gen, a new coin that markets itself as “not an MLM company or a Pyramid Scheme or any Scam.”

Schock says that beginning crypto investors should “ask questions and demand clear answers,” about what exactly they are investing in, like “‘[w]ho exactly am I contracting with?’ and ‘[w]hat will my money be used for?’”

She recommends not putting in more money than you are willing to lose, and diversifying your investments to spread the risk:

“One way to spread risk is to diversify your investments.  Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. That way, if one of your investments loses money, the other investments can make up for it [...] Cryptocurrencies may be today’s shiny, new opportunity but there are serious risks involved [...] most importantly, don’t flip a coin when you’re making investment decisions.”