What is cryptocurrency?
Cryptocurrency has quickly become one of the most fascinating and volatile financial asset classes in the markets. As an investment, Bitcoin has had one of the highest returns in history. Bitcoin was created when the first significant impacts of the Great Recession were felt. Bitcoin was designed to be a source of value and a medium of trade, a decentralized virtual currency with a truly fixed supply to combat the rampant money printing by central banks. Bitcoin can be decentralized because of the blockchain technology and the distributed ledger.
Three important cryptocurrencies
Bitcoin is by far the most important type of digital currency, not just in name recognition but by institutional adoption in the finance world. Bitcoin regularly fluctuates between representing 55 to 65% of the total cryptocurrency market capitalization. As an investment vehicle, Bitcoin received its first Futures contract by the CBOE (Chicago Board Options Exchange) and the CME (Chicago Mercantile Exchange) in December 2017. Perhaps the most important event for Bitcoin as an investment vehicle occurred in July 2020 when the US OCC (Office of the Comptroller of the Currency) granted all chartered banks in the US ability to provide custody services for cryptocurrencies.
Ethereum is a second-generation blockchain and cryptocurrency. It is also the second most valuable cryptocurrency in the world. Ethereum is the most important ‘altcoin.’ Altcoins are every cryptocurrency that is not Bitcoin. Where Bitcoin is a source of value, Ethereum is more of a decentralized network platform – upon which thousands of cryptocurrency types are created using smart contracts. Ethereum has a market cap roughly valued at 1/3rd of Bitcoin. Ethereum is only the second cryptocurrency in the US to be granted a futures contract from the CME – which occurred in February 2022.
Ripple has been one of the more popular cryptocurrencies between 2018 and 2020. Ripple was intended to become a replacement for the SWIFT system for transfers payments. However, Ripple is an excellent example of cryptocurrency fraud. While Ripple used to command the third highest market cap globally for all crypto, it came under heavy scrutiny by the US SEC in late 2020. While litigation remains ongoing, Ripple is charged with an unregistered securities offering, insider trading, and investors’ deceiving. Ripple’s chief officers regularly told the public they were bullish on Ripple while dumping billions on the open market. Ripples officers also sold large ‘blocks’ of Ripple to cryptocurrency investors at deep discounts – who in turn sold those blocks on the open market for a guaranteed and quick profit. Ripple helped to make the public aware of the dangers of a virtual currency scam.
Cryptocurrencies are a brand new asset class that provides enormous investment opportunities – but substantial risks as well.
Beware promises of quick wealth.
Do your own due diligence and investigate wallets, websites, and information.
Avoid risking money you can’t afford to lose.
Is cryptocurrency a scam?
Cryptocurrencies are the Wild West of investing and speculation. It is vital to work with a virtual currency platform that is reputable and – ideally – regulated. Thankfully, in 2020, there has been ample time for reputable cryptocurrency exchanges to develop. Perhaps the most well known, respected, and trusted is Coinbase. Other notable and trustworthy crypto exchanges are Bitstamp, Kraken, Binance, and Bittrex. But don’t take just our word for it! Do your due diligence and make that regular habit when it involves cryptocurrencies!
Bitcoin mining scams
Mining is how cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are created, a process known as Proof of Work. Mining requires significant computational power to complete highly sophisticated algorithms to record transactions on the distributed ledger. When ‘blocks’ are mined and added to the ‘chain,’ the miner is rewarded with Bitcoin. Because mining requires time, resources, power, and infrastructure, many cryptocurrency investment scams seek individuals to ‘invest’ in mining projects, a form of passive income. Thankfully, this scam is less common with the advent of 3rd generation blockchains like Cardano that use a staking system versus mining – no massive power or infrastructure requirements and allows individuals the opportunity to make passive income much easier than with the legacy mining processes.
Bitcoin wallet scams
Bitcoin (and all cryptocurrency) is held in digital wallets. Wallets have two keys – a private key and a public key. A public key is basically like an address to send something to. A private key is what gives permission to spend or send your cryptocurrency. Bitcoin wallet scams are a common scam that targets new entrants to the cryptocurrency space. Because cryptocurrency is held in digital wallets, many cryptocurrency fraud schemes have come into the space encouraging you to utilize their wallets. Some scams involve asking you to send your private key – don’t!
Pump and Dump scams
A scam that is almost endemic in the cryptocurrency space are pump and dump schemes. Similar to what happens to stocks, pump and dump scams involve an individual or entity acquiring a large amount of an alt-coin and then pushing positive news (fake or real) to encourage as many people to buy as possible. Social media platforms are the primary outlet that pump and dump operators utilize. Once the price has moved up, the operators sell at the top and then let everyone else suffer the consequences of rapidly falling prices.
If you want to learn an excellent example of a pyramid scheme in the cryptocurrency space, look up OneCoin. Pyramid schemes in cryptocurrencies are the same as Ponzi schemes in any other market; the only difference here is that the fraudsters are now capitalizing on the growth of cryptocurrencies to target you and make you believe you’ll become wealthy overnight.
ICO Scams/Exit Scams
ICO stands for Initial Coin Offering. This is similar to the IPO (Initial Public Offering) process – but without the traditional regulatory process. Between 2016 and late 2018, the cryptocurrency market was slammed with, literally, tens of thousands of new altcoins entering the market, all promising to be the next Bitcoin or Ethereum. Some of these new altcoins generated millions of initial investment from individuals, and when prices spiked, the owners sold. This is similar to a pump and dump, but it’s an exit scam when it involves an ICO. While the industry is still very new, it has matured some since 2008. It’s crucial that you do your due diligence and investigate, thoroughly, any new cryptocurrency. This is especially true if you came across it on social media.
High-Interest Return Scams
A growing trend in the cryptocurrency space, specifically the decentralized finance (DeFi) space, is high yield interest rates. There are many legitimate platforms that allow you to deposit or ‘stake’ various cryptocurrencies and reward you with a high-interest rate. It is not uncommon to see regulated and legitimate projects offer up to 10% interest on stablecoins (essentially cash) or up to 15% for Bitcoin and Ethereum deposits! But be very, very cautious about any promise of return higher than 10% to 15%. And you must read the ‘fine print’ of even legitimate and regulated entities. There are some projects that require you to leave your deposit for up to 90-days in order to earn the highest yield.
Cryptocurrency Exchange Scams
When Bitcoin and others became a tradable market, there were few exchanges that were available. As time went on, more and more exchanges popped up. But not all of these cryptocurrency exchanges were legitimate. Many were fronts that looked and appeared to be a place to buy and sell cryptocurrency. The owners of the exchange would wait until a significant amount of people deposited and even began to trade on their platform until the owners would essentially pull the plug and take your cryptocurrency investments. Along with cryptocurrency exchange scams is the lack of security of some cryptocurrency exchanges. The most infamous example of this occurred in 2014 when Mt. Gox (which processed over 70% of all traded Bitcoin) had 850,000 Bitcoins stolen (millions of dollars). Regarding fake cryptocurrency exchanges, there are some that use fake volume to artificially inflate the trading volume and liquidity of the exchange. While this activity is still prevalent, a form of self-policing in the industry exists with the website coinmarketcap.com classifying every cryptocurrency exchange as those with honest reported volume or dishonest volume.
Fall prey to a cryptocurrency scam? how you can get your money back
If you’ve been the victim of cryptocurrency or bitcoin scams, don’t be disheartened. Due to the vast number of scams and the number of people hurt over the past five years, regulators worldwide have set their sights on any hint of impropriety in the crypto space. And take comfort in knowing that many people have recovered Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies – nothing is truly anonymous. A great first step is to utilize our fund recovery company: Fraud Investigation Services, by filling out our contact request form. We will assign someone to your case who will work with you throughout this challenging process and try every possible method to get your money back.
How to avoid cryptocurrency scams
Verify websites and research the background of people involved in the cryptocurrency. Avoid anything that seems vague or is not clear. Don’t be taken in by flashy and sophisticated web sites. Like people, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
Use reputable and regulated exchanges.
Consults experts in the space or speak with your financial advisor before investing any money in cryptocurrencies.
The temptation to become wealthy overnight in this space is big. Don’t fall victim to false promises and flashy sales pitches.
When looking for a cryptocurrency exchange to buy and sell cryptocurrency, make sure it is regulated and licensed. Additionally, make sure that your deposits are insured against theft or loss. Any reputable and legitimate exchange will have insurance as well as store their digital wallets in cold storage (off line).
Be careful about leaving cryptocurrency on any exchange for any long period of time. If you have purchased cryptocurrency in order to trade it, then leaving it on an exchange is safe. But if you plan on investing and holding certain cryptocurrencies over a period of years, consider purchasing a cold-storage hardware wallet.
Crypto Scam FAQ
If you've been ripped off by scammers, get in touch and our team of experts will work to get your money back
Scammers and fraudsters exist everywhere, and this is especially true when it comes to Bitcoin. As a brand new asset class, be very careful when it comes to opportunities in this investment space.
Learn how to get bitcoin back from a scammer
Bitcoin scammers are just like any other scammer. They will use high-pressure tactics, make you feel like you are missing out on a once in a lifetime opportunity, and show you false promises of riches and results. They will make it all seem too good to be true.
Absolutely! As with any investment in any speculative market, the loss of value and your money is always at an inherent risk. But that is different from losing money because someone scammed you. Loss of value and market gyrations are one thing – but fraud is another.
Fraud Investigation Services specializes in the recovery of money from people who have fallen victim to fraud and scam artists. Payback uses an exhaustive process to investigate and go after those who have wronged you deeply.