Mix two hot trending names — cryptocurrency and Elon Musk — and well, you’ve got a recipe for ripping people off.
During the past six months, consumers reported losing more than $2 million in cryptocurrency to Elon Musk impersonators, according to a May report by the Federal Trade Commission.
Face it, Las Vegas wouldn’t be Vegas without Elvis impersonators. And scams often aren’t the same without impersonating some celebrity, such as Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
As the Bitcoin buzz has been building, scammers have been dangling bogus investments, pretending to be someone else at times and duping consumers in record numbers.
How crypto crooks tried to steal $50,000 from a Michigan woman
Some victims, according to the FTC, also reported losing money to scammers posing as Coinbase, a well-known cryptocurrency exchange.
A Troy resident told police in March, for example, about being contacted by a so-called crypto coin website that wanted her to send money to convert into crypto coin. The victim gave the site a copy of her driver’s license but not her banking information, according to the police report.
Chase Bank later contacted her regarding possible fraud on her account where tens of thousands of dollars suddenly were being transferred from savings to checking.
One day, $4,000 was moved from savings to checking.
The next day, the crooks transferred about $77,000 from savings to checking. And then that same day, con artists attempted to make 50 wire transfers of $1,000 each — trying to nab $50,000 total. The bank stopped all the wire transfers and changed account numbers.
Consumers, though, need to be aware that scammers have access to all sorts of information that’s already out there and have been working hard to hack accounts.
A scammer, for example, could have cobbled together information on the Troy victim from data breaches, social media, or bought on the dark web and then targeted the her for additional information like the driver’s license. Passwords can be stolen in data breaches and if you use the same password everywhere, crooks have easier access to a variety of accounts.
Criminals work quickly, according to banking industry experts, with 40% of fraudulent activity associated with hacking into a bank account taking place within a day. It’s recommended to contact a bank right away when you suspect that you could be a target.
Nearly 7,000 people across the country reported losing more than $80 million on all sorts of cryptocurrency investment-related scams since October. They reported a median loss of $1,900, based on FTC data.
The FTC noted that reported dollar losses went up nearly 1,000% when compared with the same period a year earlier.
How do you spot a Bitcoin scam?
Some victims ended up being tempted by so-called “giveaway scams” where somehow a celebrity, like Musk, would promise to offer you more money or digital currency for sending cryptocurrency to them.
Some reportedly saw YouTube videos that highlighted supposed cryptocurrency “giveaway” from Musk.
Later, of course, you learn that you just converted your cash and sent bitcoins or another cryptocurrency to a scammer.
“Digital currency is being used more and more as a payment mechanism because it’s even harder to stop and trace than gift cards,” warned Jon Miller Steiger, director of the East Central Region for the FTC. The regional office, based in Cleveland, serves Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C.
“We strongly advise people to avoid paying for anything by cryptocurrency or wire transfer, and only use gift cards to buy the gifts they were intended for,” he said.
Did you really start dating a Bitcoin broker?
Not surprisingly, people tend to talk about where they work or what they do when they meet on a dating app or elsewhere.
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