Scammers create fake versions of legitimate cryptocurrency apps in order to dupe users into handing over their funds. According to the FBI, they have stolen $42.7 million from 244 people so far.
If you’re considering investing in cryptocurrency, be wary of fake apps. According to the FBI, hundreds of people have been duped by scammers promoting bogus cryptocurrency investment apps.
The agency issued a warning today(Opens in a new window) about the scheme, which involves fraudsters contacting potential victims and convincing them to use a bogus cryptocurrency app. According to the advisory, “the FBI has identified 244 victims and estimates the approximate loss associated with this activity to be $42.7 million.”
Scammers have been using “names, logos, and other identifying information” from legitimate financial institutions and cryptocurrency companies, according to the FBI, to trick users into downloading bogus apps.
The scammers in one case used the brand YiBit, a cryptocurrency exchange that the FBI says closed in 2018. Scammers defrauded at least four victims out of $5.5 million between October 2021 and May 2022 by tricking them into downloading a fake YiBit app. After depositing their cryptocurrency into the app, the victims were unable to withdraw the funds.
The scammers also promoted the YiBit app on Reddit in an attempt to trick unsuspecting users into downloading it. According to users, the scammers approached potential victims by sending messages on WhatsApp from female accounts.
In another case, the FBI claims that scammers stole approximately $3.3 million from at least 28 victims by creating a bogus app for an unnamed US financial institution. “When 13 of the 28 victims tried to withdraw funds from the app, they received an email informing them that they needed to pay taxes on their investments before making withdrawals.” “After paying the alleged tax, the victims were still unable to withdraw funds,” according to the FBI.
The warning comes a month after the FTC estimated that cryptocurrency-related fraud cost US consumers more than $1 billion between January 2021 and March 2022. The majority of the money, $575 million, was lost due to scams involving bogus cryptocurrency investment opportunities designed to dupe users into handing over their money.
To stay safe, the FBI advises users to be wary of unsolicited messages urging them to download a cryptocurrency investing app. “Before downloading an app, confirm the company offering it actually exists, identify whether the company or app has a website, and ensure any financial disclosures or documents are tailored to the app’s purpose and the proposed financial activity,” the agency adds. Nonetheless, the FBI warns that in some cases, scammers will create a fake website for their app in order to deceive users.