US state agency issues alert on crypto fraud happening over social media

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The Vermont Department of Financial Regulation (DFR) — the United States state of Vermont’s regulatory agency — warned citizens against rising crypto investment frauds perpetrated over popular social media sites.

On June 25, 74-year-old Naum Lantsman lost his life savings of $340,000 to a crypto scam orchestrated over Instagram and Telegram. The DFR referenced the incident as it emphasized “the need for Vermonters to exercise extreme caution and vigilance when using or investing in cryptocurrency.”

A snippet of Vermont’s investor alert against crypto scams. Source: dfr.vermont.gov

Instagram has been rated as the top platform connected to crypto fraud by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which also holds true for Lantsman. His initial contact with the crypto scammer happened over Instagram, wherein he came across a post from SpireBit claiming to be an “international financial broker” dealing in cryptocurrencies.

Without any form of investigation or research about the platform, Lantsman created an account on SpireBit. A Spirebit representative contacted Lantsman over Telegram and — over several days — coerced him into making investments.

What started off as a $500 investment ultimately resulted in a loss of more than $340,000. Once a user ‘invests’ on fake platforms like SpireBit, the dashboard shows profits on every trade, which encourages investors to shell out more of their savings.

Lantsman had heard about crypto scams in the past but never expected himself to become a victim of the crime. Vermont DFR blames the rising crypto scams on the con artists that devise “more complex, personalized tactics” with layers of deception.

From forging bank documents and statements to having friendly conversations, scammers’ ever-evolving techniques can be tackled through vigilance and background checks (DYOR).

Vermonters have been asked to report fraud in a timely manner to help reduce financial damage and track down criminals.

Related: Five US enforcement agencies form new digital currency anti-crime task force

Eun Young Choi, director of the Justice Department’s National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET), said that decentralized finance (DeFi) hacks were a “pretty significant issue,” given the rise of North Korean “state-sponsored hackers.”

Choi also reaffirmed that the DOJ is after crypto firms that either commit the crime or turn a blind eye to “obscure the trail of transactions.“

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