Digital currency scams explode in 2020, steal $24 million: report

Digital currency scams have exploded in 2020, with the scammers making more in the first six months of the year than they did in the last three years. A new report has revealed that the scammers have stolen $24 million this year, a figure that could double by the end of the year.

Digital currency scammers have stolen $38 million in the past four years, the report by blockchain analytics firm Whale Alert revealed. The firm analyzed data from its crime reporting tool, Scam Alert. The report did not include Ponzi schemes, which “are a billion dollar industry on their own.”

Of the $38 million in crime proceeds in four years, $24 million was stolen in the first half of this year. Whale Alert projects that the figure will hit $50 million by the end of the year as the number of scams and the amount they raise keeps on rising.

On its Scam Alert website, the company lists some of the biggest scams that are still active, ranking them by lifetime earnings. The highest earner is Amfeix, an alleged scam that has raised over $56 million from investors. South Africa’s Mirror Trading International, which the state of Texas recently ordered to cease and desist, has raised over $10 million.

Scammers have not had to work too hard to lure unsuspecting investors, the report showed. One scam raked in $130,000 in a single day by just creating a one-page website and a through “a decent amount of YouTube advertising.” Another one has been running for six months now, promoting a fake exchange with an amateur website that’s full of spelling errors. Nevertheless, it has raised $1.5 million already and is still growing by the day.

Giveaways continue to be the most profitable scams, with the scammers either impersonating a celebrity or a well-known exchange. They lure the victims with promises of huge digital currency giveaways if they send a small portion to the scammers first. However, this trick is evolving, with the report claiming that “the increase in quality and scale suggests that entire professional teams are now behind some of the most successful ones.”

Whale Alert urged the digital currency community to work together to stop the scammers as the regulators are lagging behind. It said big blockchain companies that conduct free giveaways every now and then have made it easier for scammers to trick people with fake giveaways.

Moreover, many exchanges continue to be the destination of proceeds from scam campaigns. These exchanges, and some gambling sites, either willingly, or more unlikely unknowingly, continue to participate in these crimes.

In 2019, a report by analytics firm Elementus showed that cyber criminals had a strong bias for Huobi digital currency exchange. According to the firm, 48% of the proceeds from PlusToken was cashed out on Huobi.

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