Over the last twelve months, investigative reports indicate that cryptocurrency scams have rapidly increased, costing individuals and companies billions of dollars in losses. With Bitcoin perhaps the best known, cryptocurrency trading has attracted more than its fair share of fraudsters who exploit human weaknesses.
Such weaknesses include being naïve and ill-informed. The anonymity of the trading provides fraudsters with the cover and negligible risk of being identified.
Bitcoin scams are when people or groups attempt to trick or manoeuvre unsuspecting victims into sending them Bitcoin.
Crypto scammers are not much different from the traditional financial swindler. They lure eager investors into a false sense of security, usually by offering incredible deals with impressive profits on their “investments”. Bank Windhoek customers have reported incidents where they were defrauded by scammers who convinced them on social media to “invest” with them in Bitcoin, only to disappear with the money.
Many international scams are much more sophisticated in their internet presence, creating a sense of comfort to invest with them. The following are red flags of possible cryptocurrency scams to be aware of:
•They provide written communication with limited company information like registration numbers or physical addresses to verify by further investigation.
•The poor quality of websites, for example in the language used, and photos of “directors” and investors that cannot be verified by Google.
•Their marketing is done mainly on social media.
•Claims of guaranteed returns and revenues that sound unreasonably high over a short period.
•An insistence to buy Bitcoin and transfer it to an address provided.
•Requirements have layers of costs and unnecessary delays with fund withdrawals.
•Undue pressure to invest immediately to prevent losing out on immediate high returns.
•Start small with increasing deposits, as with a Ponzi scheme.
Note that crypto companies are generally unregulated, and Bitcoin payments are irreversible because no central authority governs the authenticity of transactions. This means that “investors” have no recourse if they are defrauded. A scammer can move the Bitcoin out of the fraudulent wallet, close it down, and disappear. Once the key to a wallet is shared, the owner loses control of the wallet.
If you are the victim of a scam or suspect that you are being targeted in any fraud, please contact the Bank Windhoek Customer Contact Centre at Tel: 061 299 1200 or your branch immediately to report the incident.
* Johnny Truter is Bank Windhoek’s Manager of Forensic Services.