FBI warns of rise in cryptocurrency scams, some NC victims lose life savings

Diane Wilson Image
Thursday, April 4, 2024
FBI warns of rise in cryptocurrency scams
The FBI in Raleigh warning consumers about a growing scam that is taking tens of millions of dollars from people in North Carolina alone

NORTH CAROLINA (WTVD) -- The FBI in Raleigh warning consumers about a growing scam that is taking tens of millions of dollars from people in North Carolina alone. You, your family, or even a neighbor could be at risk for an investment scam.

Federal agents tell ABC11 Troubleshooter that investment fraud with a reference to cryptocurrency rose from $2.57 billion in 2022 to $3.944 billion in 2023, an increase of 53%. These scams are designed to entice targeted victims with the promise of lucrative returns on their investments.

Just in the last month, Troubleshooter Diane Wilson has heard from three different people who say they lost their life savings to crypto scams.

The FBI says scammers are so successful at this scheme as they're able to show you what appears to be big profits, so you keep investing. Often, you get lured into an investment scheme after what you post or comment on, or even like on social media and job networking sites.

James Kaylor a Special Agent with the FBI Raleigh office says scammers do their research, "Look at you over the internet, see who you're connected to, see what you're interested in and they can start those conversations with that, with your common interest to build that trust. Once they build that trust, they introduced this cryptocurrency investing."

ABC11 showed you how Jim Wilkerson in Cary lost more than $750, 000 in a crypto investment scam. He said to Troubleshooter Diane Wilson, "The return was like 21% to 24%. I mean when you start seeing the money and the fact that it was, I was actually able to pull money out, OK, this seems really for real." However, once he tried to pull out a large chunk of his earnings that grew to over $4 million, that's when all communication stopped.

"My money just disappeared completely out of the account," Wilkerson added. He is not alone. North Carolina FBI data shows more than $65 million in losses to crypto scams in 2023. Who's behind these scams?

Agent Kaylor says, "They're organized crime and they're typically international so, there are like call centers where all these people are doing all day is sending out these leads and seeing who's going to buy it. and then once they have a bite, once they get somebody to bite, that's when the person engages." Kaylor says the scammers create fake websites and apps. "They control the aspects of the website, of the apps that they're getting you to download," he adds.

While it may appear the money you invested is making huge gains, that's all the work of scammers Kaylor says, "You're seeing what they want you to see, which is look at these great profits because they want you to invest more. and the more they can get you to invest, the more they're taking from you." Once scammers get all they can from you, Kaylor says, "They'll tell you, well, there's fees, there's taxes, so they can start pulling more money out of you and you're never going to see that money come back out from them. They've stolen your funds, they Ghost you and move on to the next victim."

Kaylor says the FBI does try and track down the scammers behind these investment schemes, but it's tough to ever recover victims' money. "It's an unregulated currency exchange. It's not FIAT money that's backed by a government that we have a little more leeway where a lot of places are going to take the banking industry in. It's going to be highly regulated, cryptocurrency is not," Kaylor said.

If you're wondering the best way to prevent this scam, Agent Kaylor says it comes down to not getting enticed by too good to true investments. You need to remember, that scammers are just that good, and manipulate websites and apps, and once you give them access to your money, it could be gone.

The FBI says don't be embarrassed, the quicker you report it, along with any evidence you have helps with trying the stop the scammers. You can report any internet crime to the FBI here.

RELATED | Cary man loses more than $750,000 of savings in crypto investment scheme

"You feel pretty ashamed of yourself when something like this happens," Jim Wilkerson said.

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