LinkedIn users are being lured into bogus cryptocurrency investments, with some being swindled out of sums exceeding $1 million, according to a new CNBC report.
“It’s a significant threat,” FBI special agent Sean Ragan tells CNBC. “This type of fraudulent activity is significant, and there are many potential victims, and there are many past and current victims."
It starts with an invitation to connect to a phony account. Next, friendly conversation turns to a recommendation to buy Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency on a legitimate platform suggested by the fraudster. After several months of building trust, however, the victim is encouraged to move their assets to a platform controlled by the fraudster.
Florida benefits manager Mei Mei Soe started with a $400 speculation at crypto.com; later, she was lured to a fraudulent platform. With a goal of amassing enough money to open a business of her own, Soe engaged in a series of transactions using not only her own savings, but also proceeds from bank loans and even personal loans from friends.
Several months into her fake friendship, she realized what had happened. “I still remember the day,” Soe says. “Once I realized I had been scammed, I tried to contact him but couldn’t find him anywhere…It hurts.” The damage: $288,000, wiping out her life savings, not to mention the new debt she took on.
A support group of victims that meets regularly on Zoom invited CNBC's Yasmin Khorram to hear their stories. With their five identities shielded to protect themselves from professional and personal embarrassment, the victims acknowledged having lost $189,000, $300,000, $700,000, $1.3 million and $1.6 million.
On the eve of CNBC's report, LinkedIn posted a blog entry highlighting its efforts to combat fraud. The Sunnyvale, California firm says its artificial technology eliminates 99.1% of spam and scams before they reach any users. Separately, LinkedIn says it removed 32 million fake accounts in 2021 alone.
As for avoiding the scammers who make it through, LinkedIn recommends only connecting with people you know and trust, and being wary of:
- People asking for money: "This can include people asking you to send them money, cryptocurrency, or gift cards to receive a loan, prize, or other winnings."
- Job postings or recruiters that ask you to pay money to pursue opportunities.
- Romantic gestures aimed at persuading you to lower your guard.