Professional scam organizations have been targeting cryptocurrency users since the FTX collapse, launching millions of robocalls and text messages in an attempt to swindle information and funds.
Clayton LiaBraaten, senior executive advisor at Truecaller — an app that helps identify caller and text scams — told Cointelegraph that scammers often keep a close eye on crypto news to better target their victims:
“Fraudsters love volatility and current events. Whenever they can try to surf the contours of something very disruptive in the market, they have great success.”
LiaBraaten said Truecaller also noticed an increase in fraudulent communications regarding Bitcoin (BTC) and other cryptocurrencies when the market started to become volatile in early 2022.
He added that “agents” who ultimately want to steal funds are launching millions of automated “robo calls” and messages trying to prey on people’s “fear, curiosity and sometimes generosity.”
Phone numbers can be obtained in a variety of ways, including data breaches that leaked millions of numbers or vitools that scour social media platforms for information.
The impostor scam is most commonly seen by Truecaller, where a malicious actor will pretend to be a support or similar entity from a major crypto exchange or company. Scammers will also post their phone numbers on fake imitation websites, trying to authenticate themselves.
Younger adults are more likely to be targeted by scammers because “there is so much information available about them because they post so much on social media,” according to LiaBraaten.
“They’re taking the same approach for their Bitcoin forum as they are for their TikTok and all those social media platforms […] It’s very easy to build a data graph of these individuals and then start targeting them. There is so much material for social engineering against the younger generations.”
The abundance of information people put online allows scammers to send messages or calls that are in the context of their intended targets, making malicious communications more believable.
“They are great psychologists and social engineers so they will try as hard as they can to bring something contextually relevant,” LiaBraaten said.
An initial call or message won’t necessarily result in financial fraud, LiaBraaten says, with agents first trying to obtain or confirm information about their target in an attempt to build trust.
“They build more and more details about the person and when they gather enough information, then yes, they will try to access your crypto wallet.”
“There are a lot of people who don’t really understand cryptocurrencies,” LiaBraaten said. “They prey on vulnerable people, so very savvy cryptocurrency enthusiasts are unlikely to fall victim to this, as they are quite astute in what they do and are very cautious.”
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Regardless of a person’s ability to detect fraud, he said anyone who calls or texts asking for personal information or passwords should not be contacted and should only use official channels.
“One of the worst things you can do is stay on the phone with these guys because their mission is to rid you of your cryptocurrency. It only takes a vulnerable moment, a minute of questioning, and then they’re off to the races.”
In February, Binance CEO Changpeng “CZ” Zhao raised the alarm about a “massive” SMS phishing scam targeting Binance customers.
The scam involved sending users a text message with a link to cancel the withdrawal, which took users to a fake website designed to collect their login credentials.