Elon Musk impersonators stole greater than $2 million in crypto scams

Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla.

Christophe Gateau/image alliance by way of Getty Pictures

Elon Musk impersonators have stolen not less than $2 million from buyers in cryptocurrency scams over the previous six months, in response to the Federal Commerce Fee.

The theft is a part of a so-called giveaway rip-off, whereby con artists pose as celebrities or recognized figures within the crypto world. They promise to “multiply” the cryptocurrency that buyers ship — however pocket it as an alternative.

Crypto scams have surged since October, hitting their highest degree on document within the first quarter of 2021, in response to knowledge printed Monday by the FTC.

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That timing tracks with a run-up within the value of bitcoin and different fashionable digital currencies. Bitcoin was buying and selling at greater than $59,000 on March 31 — a return of 450% relative to its $10,710 shut on Sept. 30.

Musk, CEO of Tesla, has been a giant supporter of cryptocurrencies. In an SEC submitting in February, Tesla revealed that it purchased $1.5 billion value of bitcoin. In March, Musk stated Tesla would settle for bitcoin for car purchases. (He is since backtracked on that place resulting from environmental considerations.)

Musk’s firm SpaceX additionally just lately stated it could will settle for dogecoin as full fee for a flight to the moon within the first quarter of subsequent yr. He has additionally referred to himself because the “dogefather.”

Bitcoin’s rise might have attracted new buyers wanting to revenue — enjoying into scammers’ palms, particularly since crypto is unknown territory for a lot of buyers, in response to the FTC.

Almost 7,000 folks reported bogus crypto investments from October by way of March and misplaced greater than $80 million whole, in response to the FTC.

That is about 12 occasions the variety of stories and virtually 1,000% extra in reported losses than the identical interval a yr earlier, the company stated.

The true figures could also be a lot greater because the knowledge solely displays scams reported by customers.

The everyday individual reported a lack of $1,900. Younger buyers (these ages 20 to 49) had been over 5 occasions extra more likely to report dropping cash on cryptocurrency funding scams, in response to the FTC.

Varieties of crypto scams

Faculty instructor Julie Bushnell advised The Unbiased she was a sufferer of the Musk “giveaway rip-off.” Bushnell navigated to a web site that seemed to be a BBC Information article, which claimed that Tesla was planning to provide away half of its $1.5 billion stake in bitcoin. Bushnell despatched $12,720 in bitcoin, earlier than realizing she had instantly transferred her crypto to a scammer’s pockets.

This is not the primary time that Musk’s identify has been exploited by scammers.

In 2020, crypto scammers focused Twitter and took over high-profile accounts on the social networking website, together with that of Musk. As CNBC beforehand reported, the scammers made not less than $121,000 in bitcoin from their hacking efforts

Crypto scammers aren’t solely impersonating Musk to defraud unsuspecting victims. Additionally they typically impersonate a authorities authority or a well known enterprise.

Many have reported loading money into bitcoin ATM machines to pay imposters claiming to be from the Social Safety Administration, in response to the FTC. Others have misplaced cash to fraudsters posing as Coinbase, a well known cryptocurrency trade.

Traders have additionally been lured to bogus web sites that appear like alternatives for investing in or mining cryptocurrencies, in response to the FTC.

They sometimes supply a number of funding tiers, promising larger returns the more cash put in. Such websites usually use faux testimonials and cryptocurrency jargon to look credible. They could additionally make it look like an investor is getting making a revenue, however find yourself getting nothing again after they attempt to withdraw funds.

Many have additionally fallen sufferer to a crypto-themed model of a “romance rip-off.” Such buyers are concerned in long-distance relationships when their new “love” begins speaking a couple of scorching cryptocurrency alternative, which they act on, in response to the FTC.

— CNBC’s MacKenzie Sigalos contributed to this report.

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