Many people make a lot of money with cryptocurrency, but it has also become the latest method for scammers trying to steal your money.
Phillip Savage from Brisbane is a 69-year-old grandfather who has struggled with a range of serious health problems, including liver cancer.
But clicking an ad on Facebook, ostensibly from a celebrity endorsing cryptocurrency, really ruined his life.
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“They brought up ideas and money figures and things that put me in a position where I thought, ‘Well, these guys sound pretty good, they’re going to do a lot of good for me,'” Savage said.
He ended up losing nearly $350,000 of his savings.
“One of the main points of their sales pitch was that they would talk all the time, they would always talk, so I couldn’t think very deeply about it,” he said.
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Social media is the channel for many scammers finding their victims.
Melbourne-based Ian Pothecary lost $12,000 after clicking an Instagram ad promoting cryptocurrency.
“Within five minutes I get calls and over the next few days I got probably 100 calls from different people all over the place,” said the excavator driver.
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He eventually teamed up with a company called Blue Royal, which promised that they would show him how to make money investing in cryptocurrency after he set up his account on his computer.
Instead, they took full control of his device through a remote access program called Anydesk, which allowed them to steal his money right in front of him.
“He was talking really fast and the cursor just went all over the screen so he knew exactly what he was doing,” he said.
“I had a bit of a panic attack and just turned off the computer and unplugged the internet cable.”
Before cryptocurrency arrived, scammers relied on money transfer companies like Western Union, which quickly became a red flag that you might be involved in a scam.
Now they are doing it faster and more efficiently using cryptocurrency, making the victim think it is an “investment” before they voluntarily send their hard-earned money into the digital world, never to be seen again.
Lachin Jacob runs a construction company in Sydney and was tricked after he received a call from someone claiming to be from his bank, ANZ.
“I trust them because he knows everything about my accounts. He knows (knows) my name, he knows my company name, you know, exactly all the transactions from the last two years,” Jacob said.
He sent them $5000 from his ANZ company account to Binance – a widely used exchange platform that allows people to turn real dollars into cryptocurrency.
After showing a small amount of false returns by the scammers, he transferred more money and ended up losing $333,000.
“When I tried to withdraw $300,000, that’s where the problem came from, their language changed, the friendliness disappeared, they weren’t friendly anymore,” Jacob said.
Acting Deputy Commissioner for the AFP’s Cyber Command Chris Goldsmid said they see cryptocurrency as “an emerging threat”.
“We see it as a money laundering mechanism where criminals steal money and then move it into cryptocurrency to facilitate the money laundering process,” Goldsmid said.
“What I would encourage the public to do is be vigilant and do their due diligence on things like exchanges they use.”
He encouraged anyone who believes they have been a victim of cybercrime to report it to Cyber reporting†
Savage’s daughter Maddy wishes his bank did more to try and stop her ailing father from sending so much money, especially since he’s been scammed before.
“So not just a simple phone call to say, ‘Did you make this transfer? OK great’ — maybe just some more probing questions or some bigger protocols around such a high amount being moved into something crypto,” she said. .
A CBA spokesperson said the bank encourages customers to consult a “relative or friend as a sounding board before authorizing a high-value transaction.”
“Customers need to stay vigilant, protect their banking information and be smart about who they send money to.”
“We are always very concerned when we become aware of fraud and scams affecting customers and the wider community. Despite the efforts and efforts of regulators, law enforcement agencies and the banking industry, unfortunately, such frauds and scams still occur.
“Customers need to stay vigilant, protect their banking information and be smart about who they send money to. If a customer notices an unusual transaction in their account, they should contact us immediately to report it.
“As part of their due diligence, we encourage customers to take the extra time to consult a trusted family member or friend as a sounding board before authorizing a high-value transaction to an unknown recipient.
“We have implemented a number of initiatives to help prevent scams and we remain focused on doing more to further protect our customers when making payments.
“If you think you’ve been scammed or notice a transaction you didn’t make, contact your bank immediately. The best chance of getting a refund is if action is taken as soon as possible.”
Statement from an ANZ spokesperson:
ANZ does not comment on specific customer data.
However, we are aware of this issue and have done our best to help the customer.
ANZ has robust safety and security measures in place to protect customers when transacting online.
We encourage all clients to make adequate checks before transferring funds or giving details to anyone proposing urgent investment opportunities, even if they are known to them.
To reduce the risk of scams, customers can learn about the different types and how to protect themselves and sign up for alerts from the ACCC’s Scamwatch†
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