BOISE, Idaho — The hype around cryptocurrency and people looking to invest is getting the scammers to get in on the action.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) reported losses from crypto scams have tripled since 2019. In 2021 alone, scams cost people nearly $8 million.
"When we have an environment where there is popularity and confusion, then you throw in money, it makes for the perfect storm for a con artist to tap into that," said Rebecca Barr, the PR and communications manager for BBB.
"There's just a lack of information and education in this industry and it's just like basic stuff, like, how to set up a wallet," said Ryan Clements, a co-founder of Idaho Crypto Group.
Clements founded Idaho Crypto Group with Jesse McCusker in 2017. The two strive to educate and grow the cryptocurrency economy through classes, online tools and videos. They teach people things like wallet setup, transaction assistance, trading/exchange training, mining and even how to spot a scam and fraud.
"We spend time helping people get out of the mess and teach preventive maintenance so that they're safe when they get started," McCusker said.
They said as more stores and companies begin to hop on the crypto trend and accept it as payments they're seeing a lot more interest from people everywhere.
"You know there are a lot of people that get in this space because of that. [They're] like, 'Oh man, my buddy told me to get on this coin.' I mean if that's how they get into this space, as long as you do it safely. Best of luck to you," McCusker said.
Safety is something BBB is worrying about as crypto scams continue to rise.
Barr said one Treasure Valley man lost 1,500 from falling for one of the most common crypto scams on social media. Because these scams are taking place more on Instagram and Twitter, she said it is mainly affecting a younger demographic than previous frauds, 25-34-year-olds.
According to BBB, scammers will impersonate the victim's friend online who tells them about how successful they've been making money, then urge them to do the same. Barr said the scammer will ask for the victim's money and account information.
McCusker and Clements have seen situations like that play out and it typically does not end well.
"[They'll say,] 'I was supposed to have 40 grand in my account, but when I go to try to check it now it's all gone,'" McCusker said. "It's a tough situation because once that's happened, there's really not a whole lot you can do." He added often times these scammers are from different countries.
Clements also reminds people that investing in cryptocurrency is just that- it's a monetary investment and with it comes risk. He said do not believe in promises of guaranteed returns, because no one can guarantee who an investment will do.
"Anyone else promising to give you really unrealistic returns, especially if they're trying to control your account it's just red flags all around," Clements said.
BBB said a couple of ways for people to stay protected are to properly research and vet offers and be wary of claims of social media, even if it is someone they know. Often times when someone is posting about great deals through cryptocurrency their account may have been hacked, according to BBB.
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