Building a Digital Defense Against Crypto Investment Scams — FBI

Welcome to the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment. Today: Building a digital defense against cryptocurrency investment scams.

Cryptocurrency itself is perfectly legal to buy and use in the U.S. In fact, many mainstream companies are now accepting cryptocurrency for goods and services. What we are seeing, though, is an increase in bad actors who are using old style scams to steal this new-style virtual asset.

In recent months, we’ve had more people report to us that they are losing anywhere from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of dollars in investment scams. Here are some scenarios:

You see the value of cryptocurrencies going up and decide you want to invest, but don’t know how. You find a “trader” online who offers to exchange your cash for whatever brand of crypto you want to buy. He says you just need to pay a commission. When you see the value go up, you try to withdraw the funds… but your “trader” demands a new out-of-pocket commission or just quits responding to you all together.

In another scenario, someone approaches you posing as a currency investor. He says he will help you get started—but instead of transferring your initial investment into a legitimate trading account, he sends you the link to his own digital wallet. You basically just transferred your money into his personal account. He demands an even bigger payment if you want to ever see your initial “investment” back.

In a third scenario, the investor is running a Ponzi scheme. You get regular reports of incredibly high returns and increasing wealth. You might even get a partial payout occasionally, but there are always more requests for additional loans or investments. There are often promises of payments in a few weeks or months, but in the end, you end up losing almost everything.

How to protect yourself:

  • Do your research. Look for reputable sources to explain what cryptocurrency is, how to buy it, how to trade it, and how to use it.
  • Don’t respond to unsolicited offers or click on links you may receive through email, texts, or social media.
  • Never share your private wallet key with anyone. This key is all that is standing between you and someone trying to take your money.

Of importance, you need to understand that if you lose funds through a cryptocurrency investment scam, it will be difficult—if not impossible—to recover your funds.

If you believe you are a victim of an online scam, you should report the incident to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call your FBI local office.