After my previous posts about another supposedly Zurich-based financial company, I received another call from a company claiming to be Zurich-based and ready to offer financial services on the New York Stock Exchange: Hunter William Associates. They want me to consider investing in some companies. The first tip they provided is relating to a respected company trading on th NASDAQ and having announced a few hours before some news that could push the stock up (The person calling me, Mr Lindley, hinted at having some information that would help me have some time advantage while it appears that it’s only recent public news, but I may have misunderstood the exact words of Mr Lindley). The stock in question actually climbed significantly in the following days. On the third phone call, the sales pitch included an observation that the stock price was already climbing after his first good advice.
As always if you receive such a kind of financial proposal, I advise extreme caution (this is your money they will be playing with). After all, the reason why we are confident with leaving our money in a bank is because these establishments are strongly regulated and provide a very good security for our investment. It is a good idea to check first what this company is.
A preliminary step is to look for them in Google. They should probably appear quite prominently since they are supposed to be a 5-6 year-old company with a web site. They are not visible with the odd exception of one PDF page that proposes links to rate companies (but there is no rating here).
Lacking some information, I checked the domain name (hwilliamassociates.com) on www.SamSpade.org in order to know more about it. It has been created on the 12th of October 2006 (so exactly five days before the first phone call I received). This is the real surprise. It looks a lot like a scammer just registered a domain name, opened a web site and started placing phone calls.
To complement this first very bad impression, I decided to check whether this company physically existed. First, looking at the mail address (Hagenholzstrasse 20, 8050 Zurich). Using Google, I could confirm that it seems to be a large tower building hosting a number of companies. Apart from calling one after the other to know if they know about Hunter William Associates, I didn’t see any way to confirm their existence.
Second, I have been trying to find the company in the Swiss Register of Commerce (contrary to what is the normal state in the US, all companies must register to the Handelsregisteramt before starting to operate). Fortunately, it is quite easy to get the information back by querying one of the following web sites:
- http://www.hra.zh.ch/internet/ji/hra/en/home.html: for companies registered in Switzerland (you can choose the exact location).
- http://www.zefix.ch/: for brand names and business names.
Unfortunately for Hunter William Associates, they do not appear anywhere there (despite their telling me that they are a 5-6 year old company incoprorated in Zurich with a smaller office in London).
It doesn’t look very good. It starts looking more and more like we have a real scammer on our hands and not a traditional financial services outfit.
If you are in the same position as I am, it is probably time to ask for assistance from the financial regulation authorities in your country (for France, this is Autorité des Marchés Financiers – AMF).
I’ll tell you more about this later (probably after some more phone calls from them).