ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – Cryptocurrency scams have more than doubled in the last year, according to the Better Business Bureau, and an Anchorage woman is coming forward to warn other consumers about them.
“I’ve lost everything,” said Sandy, whose name has been changed in this story due to her privacy concerns.
Cryptocurrency, which includes bitcoin, is a digital payment system that’s not backed up by traditional banks. Sandy said she recently lost thousands of dollars after falling for a cybercurrency scam. Sandy’s ordeal began when a former coworker posted a message on Facebook. He claimed to have made around $30,000 in a matter of hours by mining for cyber-coins. After her experience, and from talking with various agencies to report the scam, Sandy now realizes how scammers use social media as a tool.
“Sometimes the scammer will have somebody do a video and try to get, recruit more people,” she said.
At the time, Sandy was curious, and developed some trust in cybercurrency. She decided it wouldn’t hurt to invest a small amount of money. That’s when her Facebook friend referred her to an adviser, who contacted her through an encrypted messaging app. The adviser told Sandy to invest her money in an online company called Best Currency Mining. She did some homework on the company, but she never actually spoke with anyone on the phone.
“There were mixed reviews, but nothing that said that it was outright a scam,” Sandy said.
The company listed as bestcurrencymining.com did appear to Sandy to be a legitimate online business, so she took a chance and invested $2,000.
“In a matter of hours it went up to like … $45,000,” Sandy said.
Within 24 hours, her account apparently skyrocketed to $63,000. That’s a common tactic for scammers, according to FBI Special Agent Kevin Hinrichs.
“They want to show you that that first transaction you made, or that first commitment of money really did well,” Hinrichs said.
Sandy’s adviser then told her to cash out, so she contacted the company, saying that she wanted to transfer the money to her bank account. The company emailed her, saying to transfer $4,000 more for fees and to convert the cryptocurrency into dollars. After additional upgrades and transfer costs, Sandy was already in for $7,000 dollars, but hadn’t seen a penny of that $63,000 her account had supposedly earned.
“If I log into my account, it actually shows that I’ve withdrawn it,” Sandy said. “Even though I’ve not been able to transfer any of it to, you know, my bank account.”
Hinrichs says the cybercurrency business is booming with scammers posing as friends on social media,
“If you’ve never seen the whites of their eyes, you probably need to step back and assess the situation,” Hinrichs said.
According to the Better Business Bureau, last year scammers stole $14 billion worth of cryptocurrency worldwide. Nationwide numbers show the BBB received nearly 2,500 complaints and consumers reported nearly $8 million in losses.
Hinrichs said many are too embarrassed to admit they were scammed,
“There’s no shame or downside to being tricked,” Hinrichs said. “These are very accomplished professional criminals, so the fact that they got you to send money somewhere is not really any sort of slight on yourself or your abilities.”
According to Hinrichs, some cryptocurrency banks work with government agencies that try to hold them accountable.
”Holding your money at any of those places gives you a lot more assurance that anything you’re dealing with there is legitimate and should something arise there are steps that can be taken,” he said.
Hinrichs said that ultimately, buying virtual currency anywhere can be risky. Sandy now wishes she had trusted her instincts.
“If there’s any question in your mind, definitely listen to your intuition,” she said.
Alaska’s News Source reached out to Best Currency Mining multiple times, but did not receive a response.
Victims of a cryptocurrency scam can go to the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker website. The FBI also has an Internet Crime Complaint Center website.
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