Consumers Intending to Invest with Cryptocurrency: Be Aware, Be Cautious and Be Educated
At some point in everyone’s life they’ve heard the adage, “if something sounds too good to be true it probably is.” Over time criminals find ingenious ways to prey upon trusting community members, siphoning from their life savings, jarring their confidence, and even setting victims up for potential criminal charges themselves. Stanley M. Meador, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Richmond Field Office, wants to alert the Commonwealth’s community members of a relatively new fraud scheme that’s received little attention but could have a significant impact with little recourse for unsuspecting victims – Cryptocurrency Investment Fraud Schemes, more commonly referred to as “pig-butchering.”
Cryptocurrency Investment Fraud Schemes are typically initiated when fraudsters contact victims on social media or dating application sites, portraying some sort of “innocent” connection when in all actuality it’s a heavily scripted, calculated first move of many to build rapport and gain trust. Eventually these conversations lead to discussions of investment opportunities, wherein victims are lured into investing cryptocurrency funds using fake website/apps that allow them to track their investment progress. The deception becomes apparent when victims attempt to cash out their investments, or when communication with the fraudster is terminated. Unlike the more well-known fraud schemes such as Business E-mail Compromise, Ransomware, Elder Fraud, and Holiday and Romance Scams, where if quickly reported some restoration of financial losses may occur, victims of Cryptocurrency Investment Fraud Schemes should be aware they will not see recovery of their cryptocurrency losses.
Be cautious of those get-rich schemes; educate yourself and prevent scammers from fattening their pockets with your hard-earned money, or using you as a money mule to help launder funds within their criminal enterprises. Learn about other Common Scams and Crimes, including White-Collar and Cyber on the FBI’s webpage.
The FBI has suggestions for recognizing and preventing victimization from fraud schemes:
- Keep a sharp eye out for domain names that impersonate legitimate financial institutions, especially cryptocurrency exchanges; or ones that may have misspelled or slight differences in URLs from actual financial institutions.
- Unless you can verify their legitimacy, refrain from downloading or using suspicious looking apps as tools for investing.
- Before purchasing digital currency or making investments, research what is being offered and the entity offering it. The Securities and Exchange Commission offers investment guidance and tools.
- Be wary of online retailers offering goods at significantly discounted prices, and ones requesting payment with gift cards.
- Do not respond to or click on links within unsolicited e-mails.
- Secure credit card and reward accounts with strong passphrases. Change passwords and review credit and bank accounts routinely.
- Conduct a business inquiry of online retailers with the Better Business Bureau.
If you believe you have been a victim of a Cryptocurrency Investment Fraud Scheme or any other fraud scheme, please file a report as quickly as possible with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.IC3.gov), your local FBI office, and your financial institution.