The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced last week that a “problematic and widespread scam” using fraudulent cryptocurrency exchange support workers was currently active.
In its 28 March notice, the bureau’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) stated that consumers had submitted numerous complaints, claiming losses of USD 11 million connected to tech fraud in 2017. The statement went on to indicate that it was often individual investors who were targetted by the scammers. Individual losses were often in the thousands of dollars.
In a typical scam, the fraudulent support worker asks for access to an individual’s wallet having posted a fake support number online. The scammer then posts the funds to another “temporary” wallet. The virtual currency is never returned to the customer.
Recent moves by some search engines and social network companies including Google to ban cryptocurrency advertising were initiated in part to alleviate similar problems. The FBI warned that scammers will use exhaustive means to locate and target individuals and companies. The IC3 reported receiving an average of 800 complaints a day in the United States on one particular scam site. It also suggested that scams are heavily underreported.
FBI agent Eimiller reported that one scam can represent only 15% of active scams at one given time: “If only one percent of people send money to them, there’s no overhead for them. That is money is in the bank.”.
Some precautionary tips
Be especially wary of offerings where a digital currency is below its market price, double check using reputable sources such as CoinMarketCap.
1. Check URLs and web addresses carefully to avoid being taken to a copy of an otherwise trustworthy site and bookmark these for future use. Look for a small spelling difference which can be a giveaway.
2. Some wallets have been created by scammers. Always use wallets recommended by the developers of a cryptocurrency and downloaded from the official source.
3. In general, don’t send cryptocurrency to random people over the internet unless you are donating or paying for a service which you have checked is reputable.
The FBI’s IC3 site includes a news and press room dropdown where warnings about current scams are listed. This includes a section for internet crime complaints.