Cryptocurrency Trading Risks
Is cryptocurrency legit? Yes it is, except in a handful of countries. But acquiring crypto online can be risky. Cryptocurrency scams in general and bitcoin scams in particular are commonplace.
The entire virtual currency market reached a capitalization of nearly $2 trillion dollars in just 12 years. By the end of 2017, the price of a single bitcoin was $13,889.99. It is no coincidence that just a few weeks later the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) filed the first three lawsuits against cryptocurrency scams. The suit accused the individuals who ran them of fraud, misrepresentation and misappropriation in connection with bitcoin scams.
Con artists eye digital currency because it promises instant profit. Law enforcement authorities in every major country are constantly on the alert for cryptocurrency scams in general and bitcoin scams in particular. That’s especially true since February 16, 2021, when the cost of one bitcoin reached $50,000 for the first time.
Crypto Scams Are Inventive
Every cryptocurrency scam is inventive. The criminals who run them never cease to come up with a new way to steal your coins. One report claimed that during the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, that bitcoin scams involving extortion shot up by 1,300% in one month alone. Most of these bitcoin scams involved sextortion.
Quite literally, crypto scammers think of everything. Want to commit suicide? There are Facebook pages advertising poison pills you can order by paying in bitcoin. Apart from the brashness and ghoulishness of it, the pills are fake. The bitcoin scam wasn’t. It was real. And the bitcoin that was paid (and lost) was also real.
Since 2015, moreover, cryptocurrency has become the payment of choice for kidnappers. Since then, bitcoin ransom has been demanded by kidnappers in at least 12 countries as the price for freeing their hostages.
How does a cryptocurrency scam work? Most victims report falling for one of the six types of cryptocurrency scams below.
Pump and Dump Schemes
This is a veteran scam perfected by Jordan Belfort and popularized in the movie The Wolf of Wall Street. Scammers “pump up” or promote an “altcoin” they own in bulk and then sell it off in bulk once the price peaks. Of course, they were the ones who peaked the price in the first place by artificially increasing demand. What made Pump and Dump especially viable for crypto scammers and especially dangerous for crypto investors was the glut in under-sold bitcoin alternatives (there were 45 of them by the end of 2017). By the way, speaking from his own experience, Belfort called cryptocurrencies “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” He added that initial coin offerings (ICOs), the gateways for new cryptocurrencies, were “the biggest scams ever.”
They may be popular, but the only ones who profit from online crypto “clubs” are the scammers who run them. Their sites certainly look legitimate. Like binary options sites, they’re also sure to feature photos of satisfied members who claim they made megabucks by trusting the hidden cryptocurrency pros who stand behind the curtain. But again, just like with binary options sites, the last time you see your money will be when you hand it over to them.
Fake cryptocurrency exchanges are easy to find. They’re all over cyberspace. They’re especially dangerous for first-time investors. They will find it hard, if not impossible, to distinguish fake exchanges from legitimate ones. In December 2017, Korean authorities closed down one of them, BitKRX. What was particularly pernicious was that BitKRX usurped the last three letters of its name from KRX, the Korean Stock Exchange. It purposely misrepresented itself in order to provide itself with a veneer of legitimacy. A fake exchange is a very popular front for a bitcoin scam.
No scam fits cryptocurrencies as well as fake wallets do. “Altcoins” are bytes of data, rather than metal. Therefore, owners have to park them somewhere online in a “digital wallet.” Innovative scammers with good marketing skills set up their own digital wallets. They then aggressively advertise for customers to come along and park their digital currency. Once they do so, their cryptocurrency disappears forever. And the operators of the fake digital wallet fade into the digital sunset. Another ideal venue for a bitcoin scam.
Social Media Crypto Scams
Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Warren Buffett. Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, rapper Wiz Khalifa and YouTuber MrBeast. Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Mike Bloomberg. Apple, Wendy’s, Uber, and CashApp. What do they all have in common?
The short answer is influence. The full answer is that they are all on Twitter, they have gazillions of followers and, on July 15, 2020, hackers hijacked their Twitter accounts. Same with bitcoin and Ripple, online cryptocurrency news site Coindesk and the cryptocurrency exchange Binance. Cyber criminals targeted their Twitter accounts in what may very well be the most widespread and successful simultaneous hacking attempt ever.
After logging in, the hackers tweeted out faux messages claiming that the celebrity would double any amount of bitcoin they were sent. Some of the tweets (including the one attributed to Barack Obama) also noted that the sudden generosity was due to COVID-19.
The half-hour deadline, of course, was necessary because the hackers knew that from the moment they clicked on “Send” the clock would be ticking. They would be lucky to have even that much time before the true extent of the scam would be discovered and their phony posts were removed. Victims had to be found and suckered into the scheme before it was too late. And it turned out to be a very successful bitcoin scam. The scammers walked away with 12.5 bitcoins, then the equivalent of $121,000. Not bad for one night’s work. They lost out on another $278,000 because an alert cryptocurrency exchange intervened to prevent it.
Despite the publicity that the episode generated, Twitter accounts continue to be hacked for purposes of running bitcoin scams. In January 2021, crypto scammers walked away with what was then the equivalent of approximately $587,000 in bitcoin by hacking into a number of verified Twitter accounts. They changed the account holder’s name to Elon Musk and repeated the same discredited offer used less than half-a-year earlier.
Ponzi and Pyramid Schemes
Needless to say, most cryptocurrency investors acquire digital currency because they believe that their investments are going to appreciate in value at a rapid pace. So why would someone offer you a higher interest than the market currently bears? The most obvious answer is because the offer is a red light for a cryptocurrency Ponzi or pyramid scheme.
One such bitcoin pyramid scheme, GladiaCoin, promised to double the value of all bitcoin deposits within 90 days. It collapsed from its own weight in June 2017. The paradigm continues to pop up. All online bitcoin pyramid schemes that employ the same 200%-in-90-days business model eventually have to collapse. The main difference between the operators of these sites and Charles Ponzi, who gave his name to this type of scheme, is that these guys, unlike the late Mr. Ponzi, are anonymous.
How to Recover Scammed Bitcoin
So can you recover scammed bitcoin? Yes. Is there any government-run bitcoin recovery service? No. Can MyChargeBack assist with crypto scam recovery? In most cases, yes. Can MyChargeBack assist me recover scammed bitcoin? In most cases, yes. Is there such a thing as cryptocurrency chargeback in general or bitcoin chargeback specifically? No, at least not yet, although under certain exceptional circumstances you can obtain a chargeback if the crypto you thought you bought using a credit or debit card was never supplied.
If you think you have been victimized by a cryptocurrency scam, consult with the fund recovery experts at MyChargeBack. Tracing cryptocurrency is complex and mistakes can cost you. MyChargeBack analyzes your case and assists you throughout the entire recovery process.
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