When the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issues an alert, you need to pay attention. Whether the agency is alerting you to a public safety threat or a criminal threat, those alerts often have serious consequences. Now the FBI wants Americans to be aware of a new scam that the agency says has already resulted in 244 people being harassed. Read on to find out what the FBI needs to know about you and what precautions you should take.
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Scammers are constantly devising new schemes to steal victims, often targeting older adults in various “age cheating” schemes. Former director of the FBI and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) William Webster spoke in a public video announcement in May, warning older Americans about these financial fraud schemes of which he himself had been a victim.
Scammers don’t limit their targets to older adults, however, as they also take advantage of the summer travel season. On July 12, the Boston Department of the FBI issued a press release due to a recent upsurge in rental and real estate fraud, particularly in light of rising home and rent prices. According to reports from CNBC, the agency also spoke about a dangerous LinkedIn program. Sean Raganthe FBI’s special agent in charge of field offices in San Francisco and Sacramento, California, told the outlet that scammers are using the network platform to try to trick users into investing in cryptocurrency scams.
Now the FBI has commented on another cryptocurrency scam that could endanger investors in particular.
In a July 18 alert, the FBI stated that cybercriminals are creating fake cryptocurrency investment apps to scam Americans. The FBI drew particular attention to financial institutions and investors that are being actively targeted. Cryptocurrency or “crypto” is a form of digital money that is encrypted, and many people choose to invest in crypto instead of stocks and bonds. forbes reported.
“The FBI has observed cybercriminals contacting US investors, fraudulently claiming to offer legitimate cryptocurrency investment services, and convincing investors to download rogue mobile apps, which the cybercriminals have used with increasing success over time to trick investors cheating on their cryptocurrency,” the alert states.
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Financial institutions have been developing mobile apps that allow users to monitor and increase their investments, the FBI said, but cybercriminals have noticed the trend and are “trying to take advantage.” According to the warning, scammers create fake apps using the names and logos of legitimate apps to make the scam more convincing, even going so far as to create fake websites.
The FBI outlined various tricks, all of which instruct victims to download a fake app and deposit cryptocurrency into a virtual “wallet.” However, when victims attempt to withdraw funds, they are told they must “pay taxes on their investments” but cannot withdraw even after that. Another program informed a victim that they had signed up for a program that required a $900,000 balance, which they had not agreed to. While trying to cancel the subscription, the scammers told the victim they had to deposit the funds or freeze all assets.
Unfortunately, many Americans have already fallen victim to these schemes. According to the FBI, a total of 244 victims were identified, with losses totaling approximately $42.7 million. Since the beginning of 2021, over 46,000 Americans have reported losses from crypto scams totaling over $1 billion, CNET reported.
Financial institutions have been instructed to be proactive and warn customers about these scams and also let them know if they offer cryptocurrency services or a mobile application.
But there are steps you can take to protect yourself from this type of scam, and if you’re looking to invest, the FBI asks you to tread carefully. Be especially careful if someone you haven’t met in person asks you to download an investment application. Make sure you can verify who they are before giving them any personal information about yourself or receiving any investment advice from them.
Also, make sure that the app in question is legitimate, the agency says. They can do this by confirming that the company offering the app really exists “and ensuring that any financial disclosures or documents are appropriate to the purpose of the app and the proposed financial activity.”
Finally, any apps with limited or broken functionality should be treated carefully. And if you fall victim to one of these scams, you should contact the FBI through the Internet Crime Complaint Center or through your local FBI field office.