The pitch sounds enticing: Tesla founder and bitcoin fan Elon Musk will immediately multiply any cryptocurrency you send him and return the proceeds as a promotional giveaway.
Except it’s not really Elon Musk, and all you’ve done is send your cryptocurrency into the black hole of a scammer’s online wallet, the Federal Trade Commission said.
Cryptocurrency investors have lost more than $2 million to Musk impersonators in just one of many such scams targeting the market, the agency said.
British school teacher Julie Bushnell says she lost 9,000 pounds, or about $12,776, in cryptocurrency to one such scam, The Independent reported.
She was lured in by a fake BBC news article saying Tesla planned to give away half of its $1.5 billion stake in cryptocurrency as a promotional giveaway. But when she sent in her cryptocurrency, it simply vanished.
In all, more than 7,000 people report losing $80 million to cryptocurrency scams since October, the FTC said in a release.
“Some say there’s a Wild West vibe to the crypto culture, and an element of mystery too,” the commission said. “And with bitcoin’s value soaring in recent months, new investors may be eager to get in on the action. All of this plays right into the hands of scammers.”
Scammers use everything from fake news stories, like the one that lured Bushnell, to bogus tips and even online dating sites to find victims, the FTC said.
The agency has posted a list of tips to avoid cryptocurrency scams.
Nerdwallet describes cryptocurrency as “a form of payment that can be exchanged online for goods and services.”