The United States Federal Trade Commission has found that crypto scammers’ profits spiked in the last two months, noting a surge in fraudulent impersonators posing as prominent figures associated with digital assets, such as Elon Musk.
The findings report that cryptocurrency investment scams rose sharply in October 2020 as the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns deepened, with nearly 7,000 people reporting losses of more than $80 million to digital asset scams over the six months that followed.
The FTC’s Consumer Sentinel notes many of the thefts arose from giveaway scams where con artists pose as celebrities or crypto influencers and falsely promise to multiply cryptocurrency deposits sent to their wallets. More than $2 million in digital assets were sent to Musk impersonators over the past six months.
The data shows an overall increase in losses to crypto scams by roughly 12 times year-over-year. The median loss reported by victims has also spiked nearly 1,000% to $1,900 in 12 months.
On May 11, Business Insider reported that fraudsters took advantage of the Tesla CEO’s appearance on Saturday Night Live on May 8 to pocket $5 million worth of Dogecoin (DOGE).
The report asserts scammers set up fraudulent live streams on YouTube targeting viewers searching for “Elon Musk SNL.” These bogus broadcasts promoted links to spurious websites that viewers could purportedly visit to receive Dogecoin, with one claiming: “Elon Musk has devoted 500,000,000 DOGE to be distributed to all DOGE holders. Anybody can get some, just visit the website.”
Victims were asked to transfer DOGE to a fake address to double their holdings. As of May 9, the FTC identified scam addresses that had received about 9.7 million Dogecoin worth $5 million.
The FTC noted that individuals aged 20 to 49 are five times more likely than older age groups to report losing money in a cryptocurrency investment scam. Those in their 20s and 30s lost more money to investment scams than any other form of fraud over the six months, with more than half of their investment scam losses in crypto assets.