The Washington State Department of Financial Institutions is warning consumers about potential scams regarding Iraqi Dinar currency exchange services. While foreign exchange scams are not new, the sudden popularity with the Dinar and resulting consumer complaints to our banking partners is concerning. Consumers can read about the investment-related risks in our previously-released consumer alert, "Forex: Risky Business?".
Several websites have recently begun advertising investment opportunities in Iraqi Dinars, the currency of Iraq. These websites are asking the consumers to send a check, wire, money order, or pay cash upon delivery of the Dinars. What consumers are not told is that the Dinars can be redeemed only in Iraq, as most of the established currency exchange houses and banking institutions cannot convert the Dinar to US dollars. Since no exchange exists for the Iraqi Dinar, dealers can charge whatever they want to sell and buy back the Dinars.
These dealers often register with the U.S. Treasury as a Money Services Business (MSB). An MSB registration is nothing more than a form they file; it does not reflect any experience in trading currency nor entail any qualifications on the part of the dealer, other than basic anti-money laundering requirements. The reason dealers seek this registration is to lend legitimacy to their scam and avoid more stringent regulation.
In addition, most of these websites are operating illegally in Washington State, without a currency exchange or money transmission license issued by the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions. Make sure you only deal with licensed, legitimate companies when making financial decisions.