ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News in Atlanta) — Cryptocurrency is now a popular way to send and receive digital money and invest in your retirement. It’s also gaining popularity with scammers looking to drain your bank accounts.
Michael Britton lived in Alpharetta for 30 years before moving to Florida six months ago. Last year, he responded to an individual on a Facebook blog who was urging people to invest in Bitcoin, the most popular form of cryptocurrency.
“Everything seemed legit, you know, you went through crypto.com, buy the Bitcoin, then you would transfer money over, and he would trade it and put it into your own account,” he said.
Cryptocurrency is digital money, and it’s used in payment transactions that don’t require any bank verification. Britton decided to invest and invited two friends to join. “Unfortunately, we got burned very, very badly,” Britton said.
The scammer appeared to have a real Facebook page and a lavish lifestyle, posting pictures of his family, extravagant home and cars. He also had full access to his clients’ accounts.
“I lost $5,000, one lady lost $3,000, and another lady, which we tried to encourage to go slow and slow, she got excited and invested $50,000,” said Britton. “It can happen to anybody. I never believed it could happen to me, never in my lifetime. Once you get over the embarrassment, the only thing you want now is justice.”
The Better Business Bureau conducted a study examining digital currencies and the associated scams. The BBB says these scammers are actually using the same old tricks, and with cryptocurrency, once the money is gone, it’s gone. “Investment scams, we’re talking about Ponzi schemes, initial coin offerings, Bitcoin mining, social media, romance scams. With this new technology, scammers are finding new ways to exploit it,” said Simone Williams, a spokesperson for the BBB of Metro Atlanta, Athens and Northeast Georgia.
The BBB’s Scam Tracker reported more than 1,200 crypto scams in 2021, totaling nearly $8 million in losses, and reported losses tripled over the last two years.
The BBB says you should never share your digital wallet. “Be careful when someone is saying, ‘Hey, pay me with cryptocurrency for products,’” Williams said. Also, if friends reach out to you on social media about cryptocurrency deals, give them a call to make sure it’s really them.
Below are more BBB tips to avoid crypto scams:
- Guard your wallet. If you buy cryptocurrency, the wallet’s security is of prime importance. If you lose the key, then your funds are gone permanently.
- Look carefully at email addresses and website addresses.
- Phishing scams often trick people into logging in and capturing the login credentials. Those that can be used to steal money. Looking for an exchange with an internet search engine may lead to fake sites which advertise and impersonate actual companies. Be especially careful when viewing these on the phone.
- Do not pay for products with cryptocurrency. Be careful if someone asks you to pay with Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency. No one from the government will ever ask for this form of payment.
- Beware of fake recovery companies. Scam companies sometimes claim that they can recover stolen money – for a fee. These are usually scammers.
- Watch out for fake reviews. Scammers often create fake reviews for their own companies.
- Be wary of celebrity endorsements. It can be tempting to rely on a prominent figure who has invested in cryptocurrency. But those endorsements are often not authorized, and even if they are, the celebrity may be paid for the effort and may not know more about it than you do.
Where to report a scam or register a complaint:
- Better Business Bureau — file a complaint with your local BBB at BBB.org if you lost money or report a scam online at BBB.org/scamtracker.
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC) — file a complaint online at reportfraud.ftc.gov or call 877-FTC-Help.
- Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) — file a complaint online at ic3.gov/complaint and include:
- All transaction IDs
- Where you sent your crypto from (private wallet, account at exchange X, etc.)
- Where you believed you were sending your funds (perpetrator’s personal wallet, arbitrage account, etc.)
- Any details regarding the scam and scammers.
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission — SEC.gov/tcr
For more information on cryptocurrency, click here.