The past two years have witnessed a gradual increase in the popularity of cryptocurrency. Many think of it as a way to double the saved up finances. However, it is safe to say that something is bound to go awry whenever there is money involved. A quarter of scams reported to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) from the beginning of this year to the end of August are related to cryptocurrency.
In a statement, the ACCC revealed that it received 3,007 reports, with losses that surmount to $53.2 million. This report indicates that fifty-five per cent of all the losses were a consequence of investment scams and forty-eight per cent of all investment scam reports.
Individuals belonging from vastly different financial backgrounds were all embroiled in cryptocurrency scams. The cybercriminals duped hundreds and thousands of dollars from them, sabotaging their future and financial security.
Australian Federal Police say that the perpetrators sought pandemic as the perfect opportunity to set a trap, with more and more people working from home. From January to November this year, the Australian consumer watchdog has showcased a 172 per cent increase in losses, totalling $109 million.
A Fraudulent crypto trading platform
In one of the cases, Emma Robinson and Hugo de Meira Quintao, a couple residing in Queensland, have always wanted to buy their own home. A dream that they both share remains unfulfilled.
Emma, 25, began saving her pocket money while still in primary school and got involved in Australian shares when she turned 18. Hugo, 24, on the other hand, had been investing in stocks for quite some time and had started to look for alternate ways to increase his initial house deposit. Both of them had managed to save up to $110,000
The scam began when Hugo received an unsolicited call from someone posing as an investment manager from Irish brokerage Druid ICAV. They proposed a seemingly good offer to him regarding shares in Airbnb.
There was no reason to have any suspicions initially because the scammers were using their fake website and investment platform that had the name and address of the original Druid ICAV.
To test out the trading platform, Hugo initially invested $7000, following which he noticed that the trading platform got updated and matched all the real-time events. Unfortunately, it also displayed that his investments were constantly rising when it was all a sham.
The next step in the scam came when the fraudsters offered massive shares in Coinbase, a renowned cryptocurrency exchange. Hugo researched Coinbase and corroborated whatever information the scammers were giving him. He had no reason to doubt; Emma also came on board and invested $50,000 at first, then $15,000. Despite having several questions and queries, the scammers patiently answered them. This encouraged her to trust them even more and hence tried to make the third investment of $7000 in Coinbase.
The transaction failed to go through, and it was after she discovered that they had closed her accounts. Hugo noticed something suspicious; when he was speaking to one of them, they sounded odd because of the accent.
Hugo called one of the family lawyers to look into the matter; they called lawyers of the actual company. That is when he learned that the website they had been using was not the companies’.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said that cryptocurrency-related scammers carry out fraud through a very sophisticated system. They have a global syndicate that functions effectively via interconnected systems. They have been working with international partners to investigate these matters seriously to gather and share intelligence; thereafter, they will take necessary actions with foreign law enforcement partners.