AMEX (now NYSE American) offers binary options on some exchange-traded funds and a few highly liquid equities such as Citigroup and Google. On the exchange binary options were called “fixed return options” (FROs); calls were named “finish high” and puts were named “finish low”. To reduce the threat of market manipulation of single stocks, FROs use a “settlement index” defined as a volume-weighted average of trades on the expiration day. AMEX and Donato A. Montanarosubmitted a patent application for exchange-listed binary options using a volume-weighted settlement index in 2005. CBOE offers binary options on the S&P 500(SPX) and the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX). The tickers for these are BSZ and BVZ, respectively.
NADEX, a U.S.-based Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) regulated exchange, launched binary options for a range of Forex, commodities, and stock indices‘ markets on June 2009,. On March 30, 2010 the CFTC issued an amended Order of Designation to allow trades on NADEX to be intermediated. NADEX have since offered binary options trading between buyers and sellers. They do not participate in the trades.
On June 6, 2013, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) jointly issued an Investor Alert to warn about fraudulent promotional schemes involving binary options and binary options trading platforms. The two agencies said that they had received numerous complaints of fraud about binary options trading sites, “including refusal to credit customer accounts or reimburse funds to customers; identity theft; and manipulation of software to generate losing trades”. Other binary options operations were violating requirements to register with regulators.
In June 2013, U.S. regulators charged Israeli-Cypriot company Banc De Binary with illegally selling binary options to U.S. investors. In February 2016, the company reached an $11 million settlement with U.S. authorities. Regulators found the company used a “virtual office” in New York’s Trump Tower in pursuit of its scheme, evading a ban on off-exchange binary option contracts. The company neither admitted nor denied the allegations. In November 2016, SEC published yet another Investor Alert on binary options websites. In 2016,
In February 2017 the Times of Israel reported that the FBI was conducting an active international investigation of binary option fraud, emphasizing its international nature, saying that the agency was “not limited to the USA”. Victims from around the world were asked to contact an FBI field office or the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. The investigation is not limited to the binary options brokers, but is comprehensive and could include companies that provide services that allow the industry to operate. Credit card issuers will be informed of the fraudulent nature of much of the industry, which could possibly allow victims to receive a chargeback, or refund, of fraudulently obtained money.
On March 13, 2017, the FBI reiterated its warning, declaring that the “perpetrators behind many of the binary options websites, primarily criminals located overseas, are only interested in one thing—taking your money”. They also provide a checklist on how to avoid being victimized.
There is also a popular binary options recovery services scam, where fraudsters promise to “hunt” down the binary options scammers and retrieve the money from them through legal methods. In January 2018, Boston federal prosecutors filed a complaint against Leonel Alexis Valerio Santana and Frank Gregory Cedeno, accusing them of such type of fraud. In August 2018, Santana was sentenced to 63 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution of $105,869 (Cedeno was indicted in March and pleaded not guilty).
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