DFI received a complaint from a Washington resident concerning East Center Group Limited and its website, www.98east.com. East Center Group Limited, through 98east.com, states on the website that it is a “global provider of financial products trading services” offering safe access to a “variety of global trading assets” including stocks, cryptocurrency, CFDs (Contract for Differences), crude oil, and precious metals through one online trading app.
On 98east.com, East Center Group Limited represents that it is headquartered in Hong Kong, with branches in the United States, and that it is regulated by local financial institutions including being registered with the National Futures Association (NFA) as a Commodity Pool Operator and Commodity Trading Adviser. Information obtained through the NFA found that East Center Group Limited is not registered with the NFA. Exemption filings made by East Center Group Limited with the NFA list an address in London that does not appear to exist. An online search for the contact person listed in the exemption filings found no such name appears to exist in the public domain.
The victim told DFI that they were scammed into transferring money through an app called MetaTrader 5, which can be downloaded through the Apple App Store as well as through Google Play. The metatrader5.com website states that its app allows traders and brokers to “perform technical analysis and trading operations in the Forex and exchange markets.”
The victim heard about MetaTrader 5 and East Center Group Limited from a person they met through seattlechinaren.com, a website catering to Chinese speakers in Seattle. The scammer lured the victim by offering to teach them how to trade Forex and cryptocurrency so that the proceeds could help support a local church. The scammer told the victim to download the MetaTrader 5 demo app and then instructed the victim to designate East Center Group Limited as their broker on the app, which then routed them to the 98east.com platform. The scammer then instructed the victim to open a trading account on 98east.com. The victim transferred approximately $96,000 into their 98east.com account. The scammer then directed the victim in their trades. After the scammer offered to help with “one last trade,” the victim checked their account and saw that all of their funds transferred to 98east.com were gone and all communication with the scammer ceased. These allegations have not been verified by DFI.
East Center Group Limited used what appears to be a legitimate app to redirect unsuspecting investors to their fraudulent platform. Investors are fooled into sending assets to an account that is actually a wallet controlled by the scammer.
DFI urges consumers to exercise extreme caution before responding to any solicitation offering investment or financial services. Investment professionals need to be licensed with DFI to offer investments to Washington residents. In addition, most investment products sold need to be registered with DFI. To check the licensing status and to find out if there are any complaints against an investment professional or investment product, please visit FINRA Brokercheck or contact the Washington State DFI, Securities Division at (360) 902-8760. If you live outside of Washington State, contact your state securities regulator.
If a consumer believes a person or company has violated state law or acted improperly regarding an investment product or service, they may file a complaint with the Securities Division.
The National Futures Association (NFA) regulates the United States derivatives industry, including futures, foreign exchange (Forex), and commodities. If a consumer believes a person or company has violated a law regulated by the NFA, they may file a complaint with the NFA.