Bitcoin has been in the news a lot over the past few years. The digital currency, which exists independently of any bank or traditional financial institution, made headlines for rapidly vacillating in stock value, bringing celebrity endorsers on board, and becoming a broad topic of discussion in the culture at large.
Unfortunately, it has also drawn attention for the scams that have sprung up around it.
A study published in March 2021 by Bolster, a fraud-prevention firm, found that cryptocurrencies scams increased by 40% in 2020 with more than 400,000 cases. The study predicts that Bitcoin scams could increase by as much as 75% in 2021.
It is more important than ever for anyone who buys or trades in Bitcoin to know how to spot a cryptocurrency scammer.
Common Types of Bitcoin Scams
While cryptocurrencies scams are ever-evolving, a few schemes show up repeatedly according to the Federal Trade Commission.
- Blackmail Emails – Scammers send emails claiming that they have compromising or embarrassing photos and threaten to release them if the victim doesn’t pay blackmail in Bitcoin.
- Social Media Scams – Scammers send emails, IMs, or tweets requesting cryptocurrency. These often appear to come from people the victim knows or follows.
- Investment Schemes – Scammers contact victims through email or other electronic correspondence with investment offers involving cryptocurrency. They usually claim these opportunities are risk-free or guaranteed to double the investor’s money in a short period.
Warning Signs That Indicate a Cryptocurrency Scam
Here are a few things that should raise red flags that a Bitcoin scammer may be trying to victimize you:
- Requiring cryptocurrency as payment
- Guaranteeing a profit
- Promising massive payouts and 100% assured returns
- Claiming to offer a chance to make free money
- Making big promises with little to no detail provided
Other Ways to Spot a Scam
You can look up a Bitcoin address on Scam Alert or bitcoinabuse.com. These tools host a master list of Bitcoin addresses associated with fraud. If the address in question shows up here, you definitely don’t want to send any currency.
An unsolicited message from someone you don’t know is another warning sign, as is any claim that a cryptocurrency investment opportunity offers guaranteed returns and zero risk.
Bitcoin scammers often pressure you to decide to invest quickly; they don’t want to give you time to recognize the signs of fraud or research their claims.
Scammers will also sometimes try to provide their own verification methods. Trying to steer you away from independent research is a sure sign that something is amiss.
Cryptocurrencies scams also often try to get victims to reveal their private keys or other sensitive information that would provide access to the victim’s finances.
What To Do If You Encounter a Bitcoin Scammer
You can report any activity that you suspect may be connected to a Bitcoin scam with the FTC, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, or the Securities Exchange Commission.
Cryptocurrency provides an exciting new financial platform, and it will be fascinating to watch its trajectory over the next few years. Just make sure to keep your eye out for Bitcoin scammers to keep your finances secure.