A fraudulent scheme to send cryptocurrency to a doubling address is thriving in the current bull market. The interlocutor of the BBC, named in the publication Sebastian, told how he lost £ 407,000 ($ 568,000), believing in the proposal circulated on behalf of Elon Musk.
In February, when the real Musk once again tweeted about the Dogecoin cryptocurrency, the attackers posted their own link under his message. They continue to do the same now.
“Below was a link to the event. I clicked and saw that he was distributing bitcoin! ” Sebastian said.
The link was a professionally prepared page with a timer and a proposal to double the amount from 0.1 to 20 BTC for sending cryptocurrency to the specified address. After making sure that the link was posted from a verified account, Sebastian began to decide whether to send him 5 or 10 BTC: “Take the maximum, I thought, this is clearly true. So I sent 10 bitcoins. ”
For the next 20 minutes, as the timer ran every 30 seconds, he refreshed the wallet in anticipation of the prize. Musk at this time posted another mysterious message, along with which Sebastian’s confidence in the reality of what was happening strengthened. Only as the timer approached zero, it began to disappear.
“I realized that this is all a big deception. I rested my head on the sofa cushion, my heart beating hard. I thought I had just thrown away a critical amount for my family, money for early retirement and for all of my children’s future holidays. I went upstairs and sat on the edge of the bed to tell my wife. I woke her up and said that I had made a big mistake, a really big mistake. ”
Sebastian was not destined to fall asleep that night. For several hours, he wrote to the e-mail of the fraudulent website and fake Elon Musk on Twitter in an attempt to get some or all of the money back. Gradually humility came.
At 214 kilometers from Sebastian in Amsterdam, Whale Alert analysts watched as a few days later someone transferred and anonymously exchanged 10 stolen bitcoins. This was the largest amount for this type of fraud of all cases that they have ever seen. Analysts say they have been trying to get the authorities to take action against the fraudsters for several months to no avail.
The researchers reported that 2021 was a record year for the amount of losses from fake cryptocurrency distributors. In less than three months in 2021, $ 18 million was stolen against $ 16 million for the entire 2020. Last year, analysts counted 10,500 victims of fraud, and this year there are already 5,600.
Whale Alert founder Frank van Werth says this type of scam hasn’t changed significantly since its inception in 2018, but has become more successful.
“We have no data to explain this, but it could be related to the expansion of the bitcoin market. When the price of bitcoin rises, people go crazy. Many of them have recently joined and are excited about the get-rich-quick idea, ”he said.
Sebastian remarked that he usually “is not the main idiot in the world”:
“I am savvy, I have a good job in marketing in the IT industry. I live with my wife and two children, we have a nice house with a garden. That night greed awakened in me and blinded me.
For the first time in 2017, he invested $ 40,000 in bitcoin and quickly recaptured the initial investment, and over the next years, he watched with excitement as his remaining 10 BTC rose in price to almost 500,000 euros.
After the incident, the investor calls on the authorities and exchanges to actively fight cryptocurrency scammers:
“It’s too easy to steal bitcoins. All exchanges need to know their customers and that certain wallets belong to thieves. ”
Sebastian’s loss is almost five times greater than the damage caused to all participants in the fake cryptocurrency distribution during the massive Twitter hack last summer. Earlier this week, the organizer of this attack was sentenced to three years in prison.