What is a Bitcoin? Or a USD Coin? Tether? Etherium? Binance? Digital currency is a whole new world, one that’s largely unregulated and so a happy hunting ground for scammers.
And unlike credit cards, due to the lack of regulation you are very unlikely to get any of your money back if you do fall victim to a fraudster.
Our Scambuster experts James Walker from Rightly and Louise Baxter from the National Trading Standards Scams Team, discuss what to look out for. It’s time to take control, know how to spot a scam and what to do about it.
What are cryptocurrency scams?
Cryptocurrencies are digital currencies. Criminals have been known to take advantage of the unregulated nature of the cryptocurrency market to scam consumers. They advertise schemes promising high returns.
These ads may look official, including celebrity endorsements or personal testimonies. More often than not, the celebrities won’t even know that their name or photograph has been used.
Cryptocurrencies are known for their market volatility; in other words their value goes up and down very quickly.
“Easy money, fast”
Criminals will put ads on social media, trying to lure you in, offering easy money quickly. They do this to obtain your money or personal information. If the latter, this will then be sold to other criminals, so they can contact you with similar offers to try and take your money.
Fraudsters will convince victims to sign up to cryptocurrency investment websites. Then they are asked to part with their personal information such as credit card details and driving licences to open a trading account.
The victim will then make an initial minimum deposit, after which the fraudster will call them to persuade them to invest again to achieve a greater profit.
That awful realisation…
In some cases, people have realised that they have been a victim of fraud, but only after the website has been deactivated and the criminal can’t be contacted.
Criminals benefit from the confusion and the up-and-down nature of the cryptocurrency markets. It’s easy to pressure people into parting with their money, pretending they are buying in at JUST the right time.
Some people who have been scammed don’t realise for some time. You might make loads of payments to the criminals and only realise the truth when you try to take your money out of the ‘scheme’.
If something goes wrong with a cryptocurrency investment you are unlikely to get your money back, because they mostly aren’t covered by the UK’s Financial Services Compensation Scheme.
Top Tips To Stay Safe
● Don’t assume an investment is real
Professional-looking websites, ads or social media posts don’t always mean that an investment is real. Criminals can use the names of well-known brands or individuals to make their investment look real, genuine and like it’s going to make a lot of money.
● Don’t be rushed or pressured into making a decision
A genuine organisation won’t force you to part with your money immediately. Always be on high alert if you’re asked to invest quickly or promised something that sounds too good to be true.
● Be wary of cold calls
If you’re thinking about making an investment, get independent advice and thoroughly research the company first.
How do you spot a cryptocurrency scam?
● They could be social media ads, sometimes endorsed by public figures or celebrities, usually offering too good to be true offers and massive returns on your investments
● You are cold contacted out of the blue on the phone, email or social media
● The sales pitch could be aggressive or making you feel like you need to invest now or you will lose this amazing opportunity to make big returns
● There will usually be a time pressure to buy quickly, or you may miss out. This is done to give you less time to think about your decision.
I responded to an ad on social media, offering me amazing returns on what feels like a small amount of money. I immediately sent them the money as I wanted to ensure I got in on the investment early. Now I think it may have been too good to be true as I haven’t heard from the company in over three weeks. What should I do?
The Scambusters say:
If you believe you’ve fallen for a scam, contact your bank immediately on a number you know to be correct, such as the one listed on your statement, their website or on the back of your credit or debit card.
Report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via actionfraud.police.uk. If you are in Scotland, please report to Police Scotland directly by calling 101 or Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000.
STOP others being a cybercrime victim by reporting scams and suspicious emails. Forward the scam email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Use Rightly to stop fraudsters sharing your data exposing you to scams.
Free training to help you wise up!
To learn more and to join the fight against scams, why not do the free training offered on friendsagainstscams.org.uk? The more we talk about scams the more we take away the shame.