According to federal regulators, Tesla CEO Elon Musk impersonators have stolen at least $2 million in cryptocurrency scams over the last six months.
The thefts are part of what the feds refer to as “giveaway scams,” in which thieves pose as celebrities or well-known figures in the cryptocurrency world and promise victims massive returns on investments. However, scammers steal the untraceable cryptocurrencies.
The data on Musk impersonators comes from a broader analysis conducted by the Federal Trade Commission, which found that cryptocurrency scams have increased significantly since October, reaching their peak in the first quarter of 2021.
According to the FTC’s report, published Monday, nearly 7,000 people have reported losing more than $80 million to cryptocurrency scams since October. The true figures may be even higher, as the data is based on reported scams.
According to the FTC, the average victim reported a loss of $1,900, and young investors, defined as those aged 20 to 49, were more than five times as likely to report falling for cryptocurrency scams as older investors.
The spike in scams coincides with the rise in the prices of several of the largest cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin, for example, was trading at around $10,900 per coin in early October, according to data from coinmarketcap.com. The cryptocurrency’s price soared to more than $64,600 in April and was trading at more than $45,000 on Tuesday morning.
The FTC stated that “all of this plays directly into the hands of scammers.” “They blend into the scene with plausible claims, owing to the fact that many people are unfamiliar with cryptocurrency.”
This is not the first time that crypto scammers have used Musk’s identity. In 2020, hackers targeted approximately 130 Twitter accounts, including Musk’s and those of other prominent business and political leaders, with the intent of spreading a bitcoin scam.
This scam, which included the hacking of former President Barack Obama’s and Vice President Joe Biden’s Twitter accounts, sucked in over 400 payments and $121,000 worth of bitcoin, which is now worth significantly more as the price of the coin has risen.
In that instance, the hackers used the compromised accounts to post messages that read, “I am giving back to the community.” All Bitcoin sent to the following address will be doubled!”
The FTC reported Monday that additional types of scams have emerged.
The regulators stated that some scams are based on investor referral chains, similar to a classic pyramid scheme.
According to the FTC, other websites present themselves as investment vehicles and even display users’ cryptocurrency investments growing over time. However, when investors attempt to withdraw their funds, they are “directed to send additional cryptocurrency – and ultimately receive nothing,” the FTC stated.
According to the FTC, other scammers have turned to online dating to attract victims.
“Many people have stated that they believed they were in a long-distance relationship until their new love began discussing a hot cryptocurrency opportunity, which they then took advantage of,” the feds stated in their report.
Additionally, the agency stated that others have impersonated government officials or publicly traded companies in order to convince victims to send in cryptocurrencies.
The FTC reported that 14% of total reported losses to imposters are now in cryptocurrency.