In 2021, the FBI received more than 4,325 complaints from people who say they lost money in a cryptocurrency scam, with losses totaling over $429 million. (Incamerastock, Alamy)
Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — More and more folks who think they are investing in cryptocurrency are actually being duped into sending money to thieves.
When a South Dakota woman found herself out more than $10,000 because of a scheme, she contacted the KSL Investigators because she wanted others to know about it and hopefully avoid a similar situation.
“I was defrauded over crypto,” said Vianey Murguia.
She explained the rip-off began with a post she saw on social media made by who she thought was her cousin.
“(She) posted how much money she had made out of this cryptocurrency,” Murguia said.
She messaged her cousin through the app — though it turned out her cousin’s account had been hacked by a crook. After a lot of back and forth with someone Murguia thought was an investment manager that had worked with her cousin, she was convinced. She sent them $1,000. Then a bit more. And within a few days — bam! Murguia got a report showing the few grand she had invested had done remarkably well and was now worth more than $50,000.
Then came the catch.
“She was like, ‘Yeah, so it looks like you’re going — because it is a larger amount of money — you’re going to have to upgrade your package,'” Murguia said.
That was going to cost her another $6,000. But from the looks of those investment statements, it seemed well worth it to Murguia. A few more $1,000 was added to cover the fees needed to release the money. The total investment for her reached $12,000.
Then, too late, Murguia began having second thoughts. Suspicious, she picked up the phone and called her cousin for the first time.
“She’s like, ‘No! No! No!'” Murguia recalled. “She’s like, ‘Don’t tell me!’ That’s when I realized it was all a lie. I was not going to get my money back.”
Murguia is far from alone, according to the FBI’s most recent Internet Crime Report. It is called confidence fraud. Through dating apps and social media sites, a scammer “gains the confidence and trust of the victim and then claims to have knowledge of cryptocurrency investment or trading opportunities that will result in substantial profits.”
At this point, don’t even want my money back. I just want to make it stop.
In 2021, the FBI received more than 4,325 complaints from folks who say it happened to them, with losses totaling over $429 million.
“I can’t keep letting these people do this,” Murguia said.
In her determination to warn others, she searched online and stumbled upon previous reports from the KSL Investigators. Then, she asked us to share her story as well.
“I just don’t know what to do,” she explained. “And I, at this point, don’t even want my money back. I just want to make it stop.”
Last month, we reported the story of an Ogden woman who lost almost $200,000 in a similar scam.
A federal agent with the U.S. Treasury Department saw that report and has opened an investigation into that case. Though, the agent has cautioned her that it is unlikely she will get her money back.
The FBI offers the following tips on finances and cryptocurrency to help protect yourself from fraud:
- Verify that a vendor/charity is legitimate and accepts cryptocurrency before sending payments/donations.
- Conduct extensive research on potential investment opportunities.
- Do not use your personal bank accounts for work-from-home business-related activity or provide your bank account information to someone who is not named on the account.
- Contact law enforcement before paying out blackmail and/or extortion attempts and before converting your money into cryptocurrency to pay them.
The FBI has a team dedicated to preventing and combating cryptocurrency money laundering and frauds. If you believe you are the victim of a fraud, or if you want to report suspicious activity, please contact your local field office or visit the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov.
Contributing: Linda Williams, KSL.com