A report by crypto watchdog, Whale Alert has shown that scammers stole $24 million worth of Bitcoin from victims in the first six months of 2020.
This is significantly higher than the $6.67 million stolen in the whole of 2019. The spike in crypto-scams appears to have been caused by pandemic boosting online activity.
The report showed that victims fell for different types of scams such as giveaways, Ponzi schemes, fake tumblers, malware, sextortion, fake exchanges, fake ICO’s, bitcoin recovery, video scams and many more.
Over $38 million stolen in 4 years
Every year the extent and volume of crypto scams keep increasing. According to Whale Alert, Over $38 million in bitcoin was alone stolen by scammers over the past 4 years (excluding Ponzi schemes).
Over the years crypto-scammers have become sophisticated using both old and new tactics to defraud victims of their bitcoins through online ledgers known as the blockchain.
One of the popular methods, the giveaway scams, use the identities of celebrities like Elon Musk, coupled with YouTube advertising and a bitcoin address, to fool people into sending bitcoin.
The report highlighted that one of the most successful scams include a crypto fraudster making more than $130,000 in 24 hours with just a single web page, a BTC address and decent amount publicity on YouTube.
Whale Alert suggests professionals may be behind some of the most successful of these scams.
Another crypto scammer stole over $1.5 million within the period of 6 months promoting a fake crypto exchange with a poorly designed website riddled with typo errors.
Over $50 million to be stolen in 2020
The scam market, especially crypto scam, is characterized by high profits, no taxes, minimal effort and zero risks. Whale Alert projects that over $50 million worth of bitcoin will be stolen by scammers by the end of 2020. This is 20 times the total amount stolen in 2017.
According to the report, one major reason why crypto-scams are becoming popular is that the criminals behind them face almost no risk of getting caught.
“One thing is very clear: whatever is being done right now to stop these criminals is not enough and if we don’t act as a community, the reputation of blockchain might not be able to recover in the long run” – Whale Alert
This is mainly due to the untrackable nature of crypto-currency transactions. In Nigeria, most crypto scams are carried out over social platforms like Whatsapp and Facebook.
Some hack into WhatsApp accounts to send messages of profitable crypto offerings from phone numbers of family and trusted friends of their potential victims. Some others act as legit crypto traders but fail to send the Bitcoin once their victim pays.
$30 billion worth of Bitcoin lost forever
Apart from loss to scammers, bitcoin can also be lost forever as a result of owners losing their wallet ID or dying without granting access to their BTC wallets to a next of kin.
According to Coincover, a British crypto analytic firm, about 4 million bitcoin currently worth about $30 billion has been lost due to irretrievable access to BTCs wallets.
This means that 4 million out of the total 21 million bitcoin that is ever going to be produced is already lost. Presently, about 18.5 million bitcoins have already been mined.
about 2.5 million BTCs that are left to be mined
With bitcoin becoming more popular and with its rising value, more internet fraudsters will be looking to make a fortune out of its boom. Whale Alert cautions that more to needs to be done to prevent the spike in scams from causing major damage to the reputation of cryptocurrency.