In June 2021, the FBI confirmed that it had recovered nearly $2.3 million for Colonial Pipeline following a ransomware attack on the renowned fuel network. What’s worth noting is that DarkSide, the Russian hacker group behind the attack, had demanded the ransom in Bitcoin.
Cryptocurrency Scams on the Rise
That’s understandable considering the decentralization and lack of regulation associated with cryptocurrency. Combined with the anonymity of traders, it makes cryptocurrency transactions difficult to trace. It’s one of the key reasons that has contributed to the rise of cryptocurrency scams in recent years.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), between October 2020 and May 2021, nearly 7,000 people in the U.S. have lost nearly $80 million to cryptocurrency scams. That brings the average amount lost to such scams to $1,900. Also, it represents more than a ten-fold year-over-year increase in the number of cryptocurrency scams.
If you’re a cryptocurrency trader or want to become one, it’s crucial to watch out for various scams. From fake apps and fraudulent exchanges to pump and dump schemes – scammers use various techniques to dupe you.
Identifying a cryptocurrency scam early on and knowing whom to approach to recover scammed Bitcoin is of the utmost importance. While the recovery of the Colonial Pipeline ransom brings some hope for Bitcoin traders, there’s still a long way to go.
How the FBI Retrieved $2.3 Million for Colonial Pipeline
It all started when one of the largest fuel networks in the U.S. became the victim of a ransomware attack in May 2021. The company had to pay roughly $4.4 million in Bitcoin to restore digital access to its 5,500-mile pipeline network.
While they agreed to pay the ransom, Colonial Pipeline also made it a point to inform the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. Also, they shared the address of the digital wallet to which the ransom was deposited.
As soon as they paid the amount, the FBI began tracking publicly visible ledgers to identify any significant movements of cryptocurrencies among different wallets. A special agent tracked the transfer of 75 Bitcoins to different digital wallets over a period of 19 days.
Ultimately, on May 27, 2020, the agent identified a transfer of 64 Bitcoins to a digital address to which the FBI had access. That helped them recover a significant part of the ransom money, which amounts to $2.3 million.
Various regulatory bodies and law enforcement agencies have also developed maps of millions of virtual bitcoin addresses associated with scammers. It’s supposed to help them track cryptocurrency frauds and recover scammed bitcoin in the future.
Apart from Colonial Pipeline, many other established hackers have had to pay ransom money in cryptocurrency. These include JBS, one of the largest meat companies in the U.S., which had to pay $11 million ransom in Bitcoin following a disruptive ransomware attack in June 2021.
Impact of Cryptocurrency Scams on Individuals
When it comes to cryptocurrency scams, big and established organizations aren’t the only victims. Such scams can also affect individual cryptocurrency traders and investors. Recovering the stolen cryptocurrency in such cases is a different ballgame altogether.
For instance, a Utah-based man lost more than $384,000 after downloading a fake cryptocurrency app. What seemed like a perfectly legitimate app gained access to his digital wallet and quickly emptied it.
Likewise, a woman in Kansas City became the victim of a rental house scam after she paid $1,600 in Bitcoin to a homeowner in Florida whose house she wished to buy. The scammer asked to be paid via a gas station Bitcoin ATM near the property.
The untraceable nature of cryptocurrency transactions makes it the ideal choice for all kinds of scammers. While the FBI steps in to recover stolen Bitcoin for larger companies, individuals are left to fend for themselves after similar scams. Typically, the FBI won’t step into the picture for scams involving $100,000 or less.
Apart from losing your hard-earned money, you could face other consequences, including data and identity theft. If a scammer gains access to your digital wallet via a private key, it’ll become difficult for you to engage in any type of Bitcoin transaction.
How to Keep Cryptocurrency Scammers Away
First things first – you need to educate yourself about the different types of cryptocurrencies, exchanges., and digital wallets. Next, watch out for unrealistic or too-good-to-be-true offers from new cryptocurrency apps. Check the legitimacy and credibility of a cryptocurrency exchange before you sign-up for it.
Likewise, it’s a good idea to read more about any new cryptocurrency before you decide to give it a shot. The volatile nature of the crypto industry combined with emerging trends makes it mandatory to keep track of the latest developments. Read up on any new types of scams that are circulating in the market.
Instead of taking a hasty leap of faith, empower yourself with sufficient knowledge about the crypto industry before you try your hands at Bitcoin trading.