Digital and virtual currencies secured by cryptography – cryptocurrencies – have been around for more than a decade now, and people from all walks of life have been legitimately using and trading this new type of currency for great rewards.
Unfortunately, with any new investment opportunity comes an influx of scam attempts. In 2018, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission reported that crypto scams had become the second most common type of investment fraud affecting Australians. What’s more, the Federal Trade Commission reports that over 46,000 Americans lost a total of $1 billion to cryptocurrency scammers between January 2021 and June 2022.
Harnessing a worldwide network of whistleblowers, expert witnesses and international partner agencies, IFW is a global leader in crypto scam investigations. Equipped with over 30 years of experience in evidence gathering, our licensed investigators unravel fraudulent cryptocurrency operations to reveal the criminals and money trails behind them.
This actionable intelligence can be used to help recoup your money and prosecute the scammers who pocketed it. Book a consultation with IFW to arrange a crypto scam investigation today.
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What Is Cryptocurrency?
Cryptocurrency is a digital currency that usually only exists electronically. Although they’re often thought of as a new trend, cryptocurrencies have been in development for a long time. Bitcoin, the most well-known cryptocurrency, was launched in 2009. More than 2,000 cryptocurrencies are active on the international market.
Standard currencies (such as the Australian dollar) are centralised and regulated. These have a middleman (a bank or the government) to keep a record of how much currency is available and who has what. This helps to track fraud attempts, such as counterfeiting.
A cryptocurrency peer-to-peer trading system has no middleman. Instead, all logs are recorded in a ‘blockchain’. People who own some of a particular cryptocurrency keep track of payments and transfers. If person A sends a bitcoin to person B, every bitcoin owner is notified. The blockchain speaks to participants’ computers, and when they all agree on where the money is, an extra ‘block’ is added to the chain with updated balances and the whereabouts of the money.
Crypto payments are irreversible and lack legal protection, with no centralised authority to monitor transactions. Consequently, this poorly regulated system is the perfect breeding ground for scammers.
Cryptocurrency Investment Scams
Cryptocurrency investment scams include Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). These are ways that new cryptocurrencies fund their startup by offering new investors the opportunity to receive coin tokens in return for money. While legitimate ICOs do exist for the development of genuine cryptocurrencies, they are also a favourite mechanism used in cryptocurrency fraud.
Many ICOs are marketed without any real technology or legitimate business plans to back them by individuals or small groups with little to no industry or IT experience. In recent years regulatory bodies have prosecuted scam ICO perpetrators. In 2019, the US Securities and Exchange Commission charged the CEO of a software company worth $42million, for defrauding investors through an ICO.
IFW Global has received complaints about the following fraudulent investment companies.
Facebook Scams, Fake News and Bogus Bitcoins
One example of a crypto scam is the advertisements you may have seen on popular social media platforms. These often show up on Facebook using photos of well-known celebrities such as Mel Gibson, to entice people into cryptocurrency investments. These scams are perpetrated by organised criminal gangs across the world, who prey on people’s lack of knowledge in this area.
Cryptocurrency Trading Scams
As with any type of investment, malicious individuals and scam groups have found numerous ways to defraud well-meaning investors out of their hard-earned funds. The cryptocurrency trading market is rife with unregulated brokers who use dodgy tactics to steal investments or fleece investors out of more cash.
Often these crypto scams are run out of call centres, usually based overseas, by cold callers with enticing offers and promises of hot tips that will return high dividends.
Crypto scam investigators with a proven track record
World-class fraud investigations
Our cyber investigators, analysts and researchers have been gathering evidence to hunt down fraudsters across the globe for over 30 years. With our exceptional investigative skills on your side, you can maximise the likelihood of recovering your losses.
Connections in every country
IFW has extensive experience working closely with state, federal and international law enforcement agencies. Our investigators can also join forces with local and foreign correspondent lawyers to discover money trails and hidden assets on any continent.
With direct access to local databases, expert witnesses in cyber fraud, cybercrime and cyber forensics, and a network of confidential informants, IFW utilises a range of techniques to complete rigorous investigations into even the most complex crypto scams operating from foreign countries.
No matter where your investigation takes place, IFW will prepare a solid brief of evidence for use in criminal proceedings in the appropriate jurisdiction. Armed with proof of fraud, and the identities of those involved, you will be able to file complaints to prosecute the offender and take steps to recoup your money.
IFW investigators have been instrumental in helping international law enforcement agencies crack down on organised cybercrime groups, providing pivotal evidence that has resulted in major police raids, arrests and prosecutions around the world.
Our dedicated fraud investigators conduct every investigation with unwavering professionalism, sensitivity and discretion. To ensure client privacy is protected, we encrypt all personal data and will only ever disclose case information with consent.
How to spot a crypto scam
Discover the most common tell-tale signs of a crypto scam.
Only scammers will promise quick and large profits in cryptocurrency markets. It is impossible to guarantee an investment return, so if you come across a crypto offer that appears too good to be true, then it should probably be avoided.
You may receive an email, a phone call or a text from an unknown individual or organisation impersonating an investment manager or broker. These communications tend to include fraudulent offers and financial advice. They can also contain requests for you to log into a crypto account, transfer cryptocurrency to fix an issue or participate in an investment opportunity. Ignore the sender and report their crypto scam as soon as possible.
Pressure to pay in crypto
A popular strategy used by scammers is to convince you to transfer cryptocurrency from your current exchange and invest via their website, or use cryptocurrency to pay an individual or for a financial service provider. Alternatively, you may be told that you cannot access your funds until you pay them in cryptocurrency for tax reasons.
Pay-to-play job listings
Scammers may tell you that you will have to pay a fee to secure a professional role in the cryptocurrency industry. If a job listing or offer demands upfront payment, cease all interaction with the people behind it.
A sense that something is off
In other cases, you may simply have an instinct that you are dealing with a crypto scam. Perhaps unusual tokens have somehow materialised in your digital wallet, or the whitepaper for a cryptocurrency investment has been poorly written. Whatever the red flag, always listen to your gut.
Frequently asked questionsTop
There are several ways to help protect your hard-earned assets from being stolen in a crypto scam, including:
- Holding your cryptocurrency in cold storage or a hardware wallet, which is a small device that you can keep in your possession at all times;
- Disregarding unsolicited communications from unknown senders, and only responding once you have confirmed that their identity and circumstances are legitimate;
- Verifying a financial institution’s contact information on their official website before replying to any calls or emails that they send you; and
- Carrying out careful research on each organisation in the cryptocurrency industry that you may want to work for.
Yes. It is possible to be scammed if someone sends you crypto. For instance, a fraudster may send you cryptocurrency with the aim of building your trust, only to persuade you to transfer them an even greater sum in the future.
Just like many types of investment fraud, crypto scams are often carried out internationally – sometimes across many jurisdictions. This is to limit and frustrate law enforcement in tracking scammers and to make it harder for investors to reclaim their money.
If located in Australia, these scams should be reported to the ACCC via its ‘report a scam’ page so others can be warned about current scams and they can be disrupted where possible. If you are located overseas, these scams need to be reported to your local authority.
If you’re the victim of a cryptocurrency scam, we want to help you. Please contact us to discuss your experience with cryptocurrency fraud. Our experienced investigators can use sophisticated tracing techniques to gather actionable evidence for crypto scam recovery through the Court.
If your money has ended up in another country, it may be recovered through the relevant jurisdiction’s Court process or private settlement negotiation.
A negotiated outcome is particularly likely once IFW has gained strong legal leverage against the fraudsters.
Given the legal complexities of cryptocurrency scams, a successful outcome is never guaranteed. However, the stronger the evidence against the offenders, the more likely a legal case can be filed – and Court proceedings can often result in a recovery.
At IFW, our investigators will conduct a preliminary assessment of your case to identify any commercial or financial risks of the investigation and advise on the realistic chances of recovery. Equipped with these expert insights, you will be able to make an informed decision on whether or not you wish to proceed with our services.
The duration of a crypto scam investigation depends on its complexity and whether legal proceedings are involved. Typically, IFW can track down the fraudsters and their locations within one to three months.
After this milestone, a recovery strategy must be implemented in light of the investigation’s discoveries. This process usually includes preparing an initial demand letter, which, if ignored, is followed by legal action and/or the lodging of a criminal complaint and close liaison with law enforcement agencies.
In this case, IFW investigators will assist law enforcement officials with the filing of search warrants and/or criminal charges against the offender, who will most likely end up arrested and prosecuted.
The fundamental features of cryptocurrency fraud are deception and dishonesty. Therefore, as the victim, you must prove that your decision to send money was based on the fraudster’s false statements about the purported investment.
From there, the expert investigators at IFW will take care of the rest, gathering clear evidence of fraud to meet the criminal burden of proof required in Courts around the world.
The cost of investigating a crypto scam varies according to the complexity of the case, the amount of money concerned, and the country from which the offenders operate.
In general, the larger the losses, the more challenging and expensive the investigation – particularly if your funds have been transferred across various financial institutions or money-remitting platforms.
IFW’s skilled investigators will prepare a personalised proposal for your unique case, budgeting to maximise the likelihood of a successful outcome.
Due to the amount of time, resources and expenses involved in tracking down criminals behind complex cross-border investment frauds, IFW does not take on any unfunded investigations.