By CNBCTV18.com IST (Published)
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report’s findings were enough for several US senators to issue a joint letter to the CEO of Meta, Mark Zuckerberg, questioning his company’s “efforts to combat cryptocurrency scams on its social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.”
Out of all the crypto investors who reported being scammed on social media, 32 percent of the victims said the exploits originated from Instagram, according to a US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report. The report’s findings were enough for several US senators to issue a joint letter to the CEO of Meta, Mark Zuckerberg, questioning his company’s “efforts to combat cryptocurrency scams on its social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.”
“We are concerned that Meta provides a breeding ground for cryptocurrency fraud that causes significant harm to consumers,” the lawmakers said in their letter last month.
These social media platforms, Instagram in particular, have become a hotspot for crypto scammers who dupe unsuspecting investors of their hard-earned money. Even more worrying is the various M.O.s these scammers use and just how real they seem. Some scammers hack into an Instagram account and message the victim’s friends, asking them to carry out random tasks.
Unsuspecting individuals do what they are asked to, not knowing they are playing into the hands of a scammer. These tasks usually allow the scammers to control more and more Instagram accounts, through which they spread fake crypto projects and dupe unsuspecting investors into handing over their money.
This happened to Preksha Kasbe, a 25-year-old student based out of Pune. One day, Kasbe received a direct message (DM) from an old school friend Sonali. After the usual exchange of pleasantries, Sonali switched the conversation to “crypto investments and how it changed her life completely.” Kasbe was intrigued by the prospect of earning quick money and followed up with Sonali regarding her investments.
Sonali told Kasbe that it was effortless; all she needed to do was link a specific email address to her Instagram account. However, once Kasbe connected this email address, all hell broke loose. Her account was hacked, and the miscreant started posting fake screenshots of how Kasbe became rich after following crypto investment advice from a man named Anna, the alleged scammer. The fake posts encouraged Kasbe’s friend list to invest their money in a scam token.
After some searching, Kabse was able to contact Sonali, and it turns out that her account was also hacked through a similar MO. “This seems like a chain reaction of scams,” Kasbe said.
In a different kind of exploit, scammers pose as experts and ask users to invest in well-known crypto platforms. These prominent projects inspire confidence in investors. However, scammers use fake links and look-alike websites to direct the user’s monies elsewhere. This is what happened with 27-year-old Jaipur-based stock market trader Vivan D’Souza.
Like Kabse, D’Souza also received a DM on Instagram, not from a friend but from a supposed crypto expert. This person asked him to invest in Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange. After several days of conversation and deliberation, D’Souza finally decided to invest in the platform and set aside Rs. 10,000 for the same. However, after making the payment, D’Souza realised that it was a fake website that mirrored the look and feel of Binance. He lost his investment and never received a single token.
Another common exploit is the free Bitcoin scheme. Bad actors reach out to Instagram users with a promise to provide them with free Bitcoins. The catch? You need to pay a small ‘fee’ to receive this BTC stash. Of course, the scammer becomes unresponsive after receiving the payment. Other exploits include posts or messages with various “get rich quick” schemes. Others try to solicit private information, login credentials, etc. Some scammers also try to mimic famous crypto personalities, exchanges, wallets, etc.
Staying safe from crypto scams on Instagram
First and foremost, never give away your details to people online. Trusted platforms will never ask for sensitive information, especially over a public forum like Instagram. If friends and family approach you to edit your login credentials, send them money, or invest in certain assets, make sure you confirm with the person before proceeding. If you receive messages regarding offers from trusted exchange or crypto projects, visit the platform’s official website/Twitter page to verify the legitimacy of the offer.
Also, examine any links you receive for small spelling mistakes/variations. Scammers create and circulate fake links that are very similar to genuine websites of actual exchanges or trading platforms. Users who fail to pinpoint these fake links often end up being scammed of their money. Further, it is best to avoid clicking on links from unknown accounts altogether; they are usually phishing attempts or lead to data harvesting.
Crypto scams may be getting more sophisticated by the day, but in the end, they all depend on you for their success. If you ignore strange messages and suspicious links, the attempted scam is over before it can begin.