Last year, MTA worker Fritzie Cassis was deep in her mortgage and looking for some financial relief. The pandemic had been difficult and she was behind on her payments.
That’s when a friend told him about a cryptocurrency investment that promised to turn $1,000 into $3,000 in 90 days.
“I needed to make some money really fast,” he said. So she bit.
Cassis invested a thousand dollars in the blockchain scheme in the hope that it would solve his financial problems. But when she went to make a withdrawal, the company would not let her.
“They said, ‘Oh no, that’s just to start the initial investment. You have to send another $1,000,'” he told the Daily News. ‘So I put in $3,000 and then every day I would go at a certain time and see what I made. It was just build and build.”
After some time, she again withdrew part of the funds, and again the company did not let her.
“I am communicating with them and they are turning me around. I’m trying to call the number they sent. I am not receiving anyone. I don’t get any response.”
When he received a response, he said he was told he needed to invest even more of his money in crypto.
Unfortunately, Cassis is not alone. The number of Metro New York Better Business Bureau complaints about cryptocurrency scams has tripled since 2019, according to Clare Rosenzweig, president and CEO of the watchdog group.
Cryptocurrency is unregulated and losses from Bitcoin or Ether investments can evaporate without any government protection.
“Once you deposit your money, you can’t reverse the transaction, which is very attractive to scammers,” he said. “If you get a message on social media or an email from a ‘friend’ telling you about guaranteed returns, we need to know that there are no guaranteed returns and call your friend because it’s most likely not your friend, it’s a hacker. ”
Even with the rise in blockchain scams in recent years, it’s still not the most common type of scam, according to Rosenweig’s group.
Online purchases accounted for about a third of the complaints the Better Business Bureau received last year. These scams often involve paying for something that never arrives or doesn’t match the specifications of what you purchased.
For the first time the group began collecting statistics, scam victims ages 18 to 24 lost the most average dollars: $220, according to the BBB Annual Report.
Employment scams that reveal personal information for a job that doesn’t exist or spend money for training that never takes place is now the fastest growing scam among that demographic. The average amount lost in that scheme increased from $900 to $1,500 as of 2021.
People 65 and older are more susceptible to home improvement scams, half of which cost more than $1,500.
Scammers still prefer to target the elderly, who may not be as tech-savvy. This provides an opportunity for phishing scams, in which a hacker can steal personal and financial information after the victim clicks on the wrong link.
Last year, more than 5 million consumers reported identity theft or fraud, according to Karen O’Connell, a staff attorney with the Federal Trade Commission’s Northeast Region office.
More than 750,000 of those complaints involved impostor scams, such as the “Grandparent Scam” in which an impostor calls an elderly victim and claims that a relative needs bail money, medical bills or attorney fees for an emergency. O’Connell said these schemes cost the public $2.7 billion last year.
“Often they depend on an emotional response from the consumer to help a loved one or to avoid some financial or criminal penalties,” he said.
To avoid becoming a victimthe BBB and FTC suggest doing online research from the companies you are buying from. Avoid giving out personal information, such as your Social Security number, credit card and bank account numbers or codes, and even your age and date of birth.
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Scammers have become more sophisticated over the years, adapting to new financial schemes such as cryptocurrency as they develop.
Cassis said her niece helped her research the company before investing and that it seemed legitimate.
She said the company had a fancy website, which has since been taken down, they sent her documents and had a phone number to call. They used legitimate apps for money transfers.
Cassis said he had to make a forbearance plan on his mortgage.
“It’s like a new mortgage,” he said. “I have to start again”.
It is a difficult lesson to pass on.
“If it’s too good to be true for this quick money thing, or if they tell you you can turn $1,000 into $3,000, chances are it’s not real,” he said.