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

NORTH CAROLINA (WTVD) -- The FBI in Raleigh is 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 of an investment scam.

Federal agents say ABC11 Troubleshooter that investment fraud with reference to cryptocurrencies increased from $2.57 billion in 2022 to $3.944 billion in 2023, an increase of 53%. These scams are designed to lure 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 due to crypto scams.

The FBI says scammers are so successful at this scheme because they can show you what appear to be big profits, so you will continue investing. Often, one is drawn to an investment plan after what one posts or comments on, or even likes on social media and job networking sites.

James Kaylor, a special agent with the FBI's Raleigh office, says scammers do their research: "They look at you on the Internet, they see who you're connected to, they see what you're interested in, and they can start those conversations with that, with your common interest." to build that trust. Once they built that trust, they introduced this cryptocurrency investment."

ABC11 showed you how Jim Wilkerson in Cary lost more than $750,000 in a crypto investment scam. He told troubleshooter Diane Wilson: "The return was 21% to 24%. I mean, when you start to look at the money and the fact that it was, I was able to withdraw it, okay, this seems really real." "However, once she attempted to withdraw a large portion of her earnings, which grew to over $4 million, that's when all communication stopped.

"My money completely disappeared from the account," Wilkerson added. You are not alone. North Carolina FBI data shows more than $65 million in losses from cryptocurrency scams in 2023. Who is behind these scams?

Agent Kaylor says: "They're organized crime and they're usually international, so there are call centers where all these people do all day sending these leads and seeing who's going to buy them. And then once they have a bite, a "Once they get someone to bite, that's when the person gets involved." Kaylor says scammers create fake websites and apps. "They control aspects of the website, of the applications that they ask you to download," he adds.

While it may seem like the money you invested is generating huge profits, that's all the work of scammers. Kaylor says, "You're seeing what they want you to see, which is looking at these big profits because they want you to invest more." The more they get you to invest, the more they'll take from you." Once the scammers get all they can from you, Kaylor says, "they'll tell you, well, there are fees, there are taxes, so they can start taking more money from you and you'll never see that money comes back." "From them. "They've stolen your funds, ghosted you, and moved on to the next victim."

Kaylor says the FBI tries to track down the scammers behind these investment schemes, but it's difficult to recover money from victims. "It's an unregulated currency exchange. It's not FIAT money backed by a government that we have a little more leeway in a lot of places where they're going to accept the banking industry. It's going to be highly regulated, cryptocurrencies aren't," Kaylor . saying.

If you're wondering how best to prevent this scam, Agent Kaylor says it all comes down to not being tempted by investments that are too good or too true. He must remember that scammers are that good and they 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 sooner you report it, along with any evidence you have, will help stop the scammers. You can report any Internet crime to the FBI here.

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

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

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