PORTLAND, Oregon (KTVZ) – This week, the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment focuses on building a digital defense against cryptocurrency investment scams.
The cryptocurrency itself is perfectly legal to buy and use in the United States. In fact, many mainstream businesses are now accepting cryptocurrency for goods and services. What the FBI is seeing, however, is an increase in the number of bad actors using old-fashioned scams to steal this new-style virtual asset.
In recent months, the FBI has said more and more people have reported to it losing hundreds to hundreds of thousands of dollars in investment scams. Here are some scenarios:
You see the value of cryptocurrencies rise and decide you want to invest, but you don’t know how. You find an online “trader” who offers to exchange your money for the brand of crypto you want to buy. He says you just need to pay a commission. When you see the value increase, you try to withdraw the funds… but your “trader” demands a new commission or stops answering all of you together.
In another scenario, someone approaches you posing as a currency investor. He says he’ll help you get started – but instead of transferring your initial investment to a legitimate trading account, he sends you the link to his own digital wallet. Basically, you just transferred your money to his personal account. It demands an even larger payment if you ever want to recoup your original “investment”.
In a third scenario, the investor operates a Ponzi scheme. You get regular reports of insanely high returns and growing wealth. Sometimes you can even get a partial repayment, but there are always more requests for loans or additional investments. There are often promises of payments in a matter of weeks or months, but in the end you lose almost everything.
How to protect yourself:
- Do your research. Look for reliable sources to explain what cryptocurrency is, how to buy it, how to trade it, and how to use it.
- Do not respond to unsolicited offers or click on any links you may receive via email, text, or social media.
- Never share your private wallet key with anyone. This key is all that is between you and someone who is trying to take your money.
It is important to understand that if you lose funds due to a cryptocurrency investment scam, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to get your funds back.
If you believe you have been scammed online, you should report the incident to the FBI Internet Crime Complaints Center at www.ic3.gov or call your local FBI office.