Cryptocurrency related crime is on rise throughout the world. Every year billions of dollars are being stolen by scammers. Writes Nir Kshetri
Millions of cryptocurrency investors have been scammed out of massive sums of real money. In 2018, losses from cryptocurrency-related crimes amounted to US$1.7 billion. The criminals use both old-fashioned and new-technology tactics to swindle their marks in schemes based on digital currencies exchanged through online databases called blockchains.
From researching blockchain, cryptocurrency and cybercrime, I can see that some cryptocurrency fraudsters rely on tried-and-true Ponzi schemes that use income from new participants to pay out returns to earlier investors.
Others use highly automatized and sophisticated processes, including automated software that interacts with Telegram, an internet-based instant-messaging system popular among people interested in cryptocurrencies. Even when a cryptocurrency plan is legitimate, fraudsters can still manipulate its price in the marketplace.
An even more basic question arises, though: How are unsuspecting investors attracted to cryptocurrency frauds in the first place?
Some cryptocurrency fraudsters appeal to people’s greed, promising big returns. For example, an unknown group of entrepreneurs runs the scam bot iCenter, which is a Ponzi scheme for Bitcoin and Litecoin. It doesn’t provide information on investment strategies, but somehow promises investors 1.2% daily returns.
The iCenter scheme operates through a group chat on Telegram. It starts with a small group of scammers who are in on the racket. They get a referral code that they share with others, in blogs and on social media, hoping to get them to join the chat. Once there, the newcomers see encouraging and exciting messages from the original scammers. Some newcomers decide to invest, at which point they are assigned an individual bitcoin wallet, into which they can deposit bitcoins. They agree to wait some period of time – 99 or 120 days – to receive a significant return.
During that time, the newcomers often use social media to share their own referral codes with friends and contacts, bringing more people into the group chat and into the investment scheme. There’s no actual investment of the funds in any legitimate business. Instead, when new people join, the person who recruited them gets a percentage of the new funds, and the cycle continues, paying out to earlier participants from each round of newer investors.
Some members work especially hard to bring in new funds, posting tutorial videos and pictures of themselves holding large amounts of money as enticements to join the scam.
Lies and more lies
Other scams are based on impressing potential victims with jargon or claims of specialized knowledge. The Global Trading scammers claimed they took advantage of price differences on various cryptocurrency exchanges to profit from what is called arbitrage – simply buying cheaply and selling at higher prices. Really they just took investors’ money.
Global Trading used a bot on Telegram, too – investors could send a balance inquiry message and get a response with false information about how much was in their account, sometimes even seeing balances climb by 1% in an hour. With returns looking like that, who could blame people for sharing the scheme with their friends and family on social media?
Exploiting friends and family
Once a scheme has started, it stays alive – at least for a while – through social media. One person gets taken in by the promise of big returns on cryptocurrency investments and spreads the word to friends and family members.
Sometimes big names get involved. For instance, the kingpin behind GainBitcoin and other alleged scams in India convinced a number of Bollywood celebrities to promote his book, “Cryptocurrency for Beginners.” He even tried to make himself a bit of a celebrity, proclaiming himself a “cryptocurrency guru,” as he led efforts that cost investors between $769 million and $2 billion.
Not all the celebrities know they’re involved. In one blog post, iCenter featured a video that purported to be an endorsement by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, holding a sign featuring iCenter’s logo. Videos of Justin Timberlake and Christopher Walken were deceptively edited so they appeared to praise iCenter, too.
Fraudulent initial coin offerings
Another popular scam technique is called an “initial coin offering.” A potentially legitimate investment opportunity, an initial coin offering essentially is a way for a startup cryptocurrency company to raise money from its future users: In exchange for sending active cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ethereum, customers are promised a discount on the new cryptocoins.
Many initial coin offerings have turned out to be scams, with organizers engaging in cunning plots, even renting fake offices and creating fancy-looking marketing materials. In 2017, a lot of hype and media coverage about cryptocurrencies fed a huge wave of initial coin offering fraud. In 2018, about 1,000 initial coin offering efforts collapsed, costing backers at least US$100 million. Many of these projects had no original ideas – more than 15 percent of them had copied ideas from other cryptocurrency efforts, or even plagiarized supporting documentation.
Investors looking for returns in a new technology sector are still interested in blockchains and cryptocurrencies – but should beware that they are complex systems that are new even to those who are selling them. Newcomers and relative experts alike have fallen prey to scams.
In an environment like the current cryptocurrency market, potential investors should be very careful to research what they’re putting their money into and be sure to find out who is involved as well as what the actual plan is for making real money – without defrauding others.
From another exclusive report – The YEM coin scam cartel
While hundreds and thousands of people in the crypto world already are feeling horrified at the serialized investigative report published by this newspaper exposing notorious scamming acts of Bank Bene Merenti, YEM coin and Dan Settgast, our investigative reporters have found extremely shocking information. Based on our information, authorities in the United States, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as well as authorities in the United Arab Emirates and other African countries should initiate immediate investigation into the matter and bring criminal charges against each of the members of this grand scam cartel.
Dan Settgast is one of the kingpins of the scam cartel named Bank Bene Merenti, which has been robbing-off hundreds of millions of dollars through fake YEM crypto by fooling people through false claims and well-orchestrated propaganda. By pretending as an affiliate of the Bank of Japan, this scam cartel is mainly cheating people from Uganda, Ghana, Gabon, Tanzania, Nigeria, Kenya, Gambia, Ethiopia, Congo, Sudan, Angola, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Cameron, Madagascar, Mali, Malawi, Senegal, Chad, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Guinea, Benin, Burundi, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Sierra Leone, Togo, Central African Republic, Liberia, Mauritania, Eritrea, Botswana, Lesotho, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritius, Eswatini, Djibouti, Comoros, Cape Verde, Seychelles, as well as South Asian countries such as Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. According to credible sources, this racket has also expanded network in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Lebanon, Jordan, Oman, Bahrain, Syria and UAE.
Media reports claim, Bank Bene Merenti has so far collected more than US$2.14 trillion by fooling people who lack adequate knowledge inter-based scam cartels in the world of crypto. These reports said, the YEM coin crypto which is sold by Bank Bene Meneti and few of its co-gangs is non-existent and people putting money into this fraudulent venture would definitely lose everything.
According to information, Bank Bene Merenti and YEM coin cartel is running under the umbrella of another entity named ‘YEM Foundation’, a domestic non-profit corporation registered in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA as a non-profit company. Company Number: E0553072017-8. Native Company Number” E0553072017-8. YEM Foundation does not have its own office in the US. Instead it uses a virtual office address provided by a company named PHYSICALADDRESS.COM.
Our investigative reporter in the US has already checked every detail of the YEM Foundation, and found that the YEM coin and Bank Bene Merenti scam cartel is using this US non-profit as a shield of their criminal activities. It is also learnt from credible source that hundreds of millions of cheat-fund of Bank Bene Merenti, YEM coin, Dan Settgast, Jorge Sebastiao and other members of YEM Foundation scam ring is secretly deposited in various offshore accounts with the help of the Nevada-based company that provides virtual office address (304 S JONES BLVD, Las Vegas, NV, 89107) to this cartel.
It is also learnt, Jorge Sebastiao, real name Nuno Jorge Da Cruz Sebastiao, a British national is the President of YEM Foundation and one of the top kingpins of the Bank Bene Merenti and YEM coin scam cartel.
Jorge Da Cruz Sebastiao is one of the key players in a Dubai-based company named EcoX, which has direct connections with Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.
Nir Kshetri is a Professor of Management, University of North Carolina – Greensboro.
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