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What to Do If You’ve Been a Victim of Scams or Fraud
What are your chances of getting restitution? Here’s what you need to know.
There are two fronts in the battle against scams and fraud: prevention and restitution. On the prevention side, there’s plenty going on and lots of money being spent. The fiscal year 2020 federal government budget has earmarked roughly $15 billion for cybersecurity across more than 70 agencies. And that doesn’t include money to be spent on classified projects.
The bulk of the money is used to prevent crimes such as leaks of military secrets or National Security Agency (NSA) breaches. But it also helps ward off ransomware attacks and other types of fraud that could potentially affect millions of Americans by compromising their personal health or tax records. (Last May’s WannaCry ransomware attack, which was reported to have been enabled by a tool acquired in an NSA breach a month earlier, disabled more than 200,000 systems in 150 countries.)
Private companies, including huge tech firms such as Apple and Microsoft, also devote massive resources to shoring up cybersecurity to protect their customers from falling prey to hackers, who hope to gain access to credit cards, bank accounts, and basic identity.
But what about fraud that has already happened? What recourse do you have if you’ve been a victim, and what are your chances of getting restitution? Here’s a rundown.
Report the Scam
In one study, only an estimated 14 percent of victims reported the scam, whether because they were embarrassed, felt it was futile, or simply didn’t know where to report it. But reporting is important because it establishes accurate statistics on the number of people affected and because the FBI and other law enforcement agencies devote considerable resources to breaking up fraud rings. Start with the police (essential if you want to make an insurance claim on stolen property) and report compromised credit or debit card information to the card issuers. The AARP Fraud Watch Network also has a hotline available to anyone (877-908-3360), and volunteers there can advise you of the best next step if you’re unsure of what to do.
This holds true even if you’ve been acted on globally. For most scams involving goods and services (nonexistent vacation properties, for example, or a fake employment agency), try your state attorney general’s office, your local and state consumer protection agencies (go to usa.gov and search for state consumer protection offices), the Better Business Bureau, or, depending on the crime, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, known as IC3.
Match the Agency to the Crime
If the fraud you’ve been a victim of violates federal law, as is often the case, there’s probably a government agency that handles it. Go to usa.gov for a list (beginning with the Federal Trade Commission, an excellent all-purpose first stop for victims of all types of fraud) and the relevant crime to report there (from income tax debt collection fraud to income tax refund fraud). If your identity has been stolen, identitytheft.gov will take you through a list of steps to take. For financial crimes, finra.org (the website of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, which is not a government agency) has a useful listing of groups that specialize in investment fraud and a discussion of possible ways to recover losses, including arbitration. Type in “report fraud” at finra.org, and search for “A Recovery Checklist for Victims of Investment Fraud.”
Focus on Emotional Healing
Federal agencies rarely track down perpetrators of crimes against individuals. Rather, they use complaints to record patterns of abuse, which enables an agency to take action against a company or industry. Given the global nature of most fraud today, not to mention the current climate of deregulation and understaffing in Washington, D.C.—the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has reduced its second-quarter budget request to $0 and said it will direct its energy toward “address[ing] unwarranted regulatory burdens”—consumers should be realistic about their poor chances of legal redress. That’s why many experts emphasize emotional recovery. “Instead of yelling at the victim ‘How could you be so gullible?’ ” says Amy Nofziger, a fraud expert at AARP, “I encourage family and friends to be empathetic—say, ‘I’m really sorry this happened to you but it did, so now let’s figure out how to get past it.’ ”
Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the June 2020 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.
How do you protect yourself from cryptocurrency scams?
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There are some ways you can implement safeguards to reduce the chance of theft. Since cryptocurrency is a unique type of asset that affords a thief some form of anonymity and little chance of funds retrieval, implementing following these practices, although an inconvenience, can spare you potentially significant and life-altering losses:
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•Store your cryptocurrency and tokens offline in a hardware or paper wallet
•Secure your hardware or paper wallet in a locked safe when not in use
• Secure your private keys offline and away from where your wallet is stored, such as in a bank safe deposit box .
Are Cryptocurrencies A Scam?
Trading cryptocurrencies as a source of income is experiencing a boom in popularity today. Since appearing on the Internet, digital currencies have created a chain reaction. Literally anyone can realize their fantastic potential. Almost the entire world, including most governments, is concerned about the uncontrolled growth of the popularity of crypto assets. Well, you already know what crypto assets are and how to earn them, but you’d like to learn the whole truth about them.
How do cryptocurrencies work?
In order to find out whether they’re another scam or not, one should realize the basic principle of crypto currencies as assets.
The basis for the functioning of the digital currency system is the technology of the blockchain. This is a way of storing information without placing it in one particular place, when the data is distributed among all participants of the system (on computers all over the world), automatically updated and available at any time to any user. It’s a continuous successive chain of information blocks, which is normally stored and processed independently on many computers (Wikipedia).
Such a complex network is distributed among all participants, and all computers that produce coins become participants in the system. There is no main center to which everything is subordinated. Digital currencies are redistributed across the network, between market participants. This allows you to pass banks, exclude the influence of the state, and avoid commissions for transfers and other expenses and difficulties. Users get full freedom of action with cryptocurrencies, they have no obligations to the network, and their money can’t be frozen, so you can do anything with cryptocurrencies and whenever you wish.
The anonymity of such assets allows you to create a large number of bitcoin-addresses without reference to any information. If the user intentionally does not specify his data, then no one will ever know that a specific bitcoin address belongs to him. For anonymity, one bit-address is usually used for one transaction. Due to the transparency of operations, the history of all transactions is stored in the system. These transactions can’t be canceled. Getting money back is impossible as well. This can only be done by the recipient.
The issuing of coins depends on the work of millions of computers using a program for calculating mathematical algorithms; this issuing only takes place in digital form, and anyone can issue this asset. Having appeared not so long ago, cryptocurrencies are currently a real free money, devoid of the complexities and limitations inherent in standard money. This type of money has become an antagonist of a centralized system where everything is dictated by the state and the economy, but not always by the interests of citizens.
Advantages of earning with cryptocurrencies
- Lack of control: the exchange rate of digital currencies is not controlled at all; it is not affected by the economy of the state or the welfare of the world.
- High security of cryptocurrencies. They can’t be faked or hacked.
- A wide range of crypto exchanges for work.
- High volatility and unlimited income: digital currencies are extremely dynamic, their exchange rate is constantly growing, and they stir people’s consciousness.
- Simple money making: by tracking the market trends, it’s easy to increase your capital regardless of the market direction.
Disadvantages of cryptocurrencies
- Absence of 100% guarantee of safety of users’ wallets.
- Risks of hacking crypto exchanges and loss of funds.
- Lack of centralized regulatory bodies.
- The unclear future status of cryptocurrencies; high likelihood of a ban on using digital currencies.
- High volatility.
- It’s impossible to cancel the transaction if it is wrong or you have changed your mind about sending coins.
- Risks of loss of capital if access to the wallet is lost.
Myths about cryptocurrencies
The growing popularity of digital currencies has led not only to the great involvement of Internet users in this market, but also to the fact that today there are a lot of myths about digital coins that mislead users. Let’s talk about these myths.
Myth 1. Cryptocurrencies are another financial pyramid scheme
This is one common myth among those who do not understand the very essence of digital currencies. Do you really consider cryptocurrencies to be a pyramid scheme? It’s worth starting with how the pyramid scheme is structured. It implies the investment of funds for the purpose of profit. The benefit for honorable «old» investors is ensured by attracting new members to the system. However, having attracted new participants to the system, the pyramid usually experiences difficulties. It closes, all money is frozen, and it can’t be used for some time or even forever. The principle of crypto assets is completely different from the pyramid. No one freezes money; funds are available to the trader at the crypto exchange at any time. For the transfer of funds, as well as for inviting new participants into the system, there aren’t any bonuses. As follows from this, digital currencies can’t be a pyramid scheme.
Myth 2. Cryptocurrencies are required for black markets
Of course, some cryptocurrencies became popular after participating in illegal trade and dirty schemes. However, today, cryptocurrencies, and Bitcoin in particular, can be considered an active part of our offline life. With the help of digital assets, you can buy a car, an apartment, a yacht. You can also use them to pay in restaurants and cafes. As follows from this, cryptocurrencies aren’t meant for black markets.
Myth 3. Cryptocurrencies are another bubble
This is a very common myth found on the web. However, using the concept of «bubble» in relation to digital currencies, folks often forget what is included in this idea. A bubble refers to assets that have any value, and which, thanks to the news background, rise in value. Can we say this about crypto assets? The growth in the price of cryptocurrencies is affected only by demand: the higher it is, the higher the cost will be. So, we can conclude that cryptocurrencies can’t be a bubble.
Myth 4. Cryptocurrencies aren’t backed by true assets
As we know, since 1971 the gold standard has been canceled; now all of the world’s currencies are not backed by anything of real value (if only by their GDP). In this regard, digital currencies don’t differ from conventional ones. They aren’t backed just like traditional currencies.
We repeat once again – it’s not a scam!
The Internet has enough materials claiming that digital currencies are a pure scam. Is it true? Let’s make this clear. First, for mining virtual assets, one has to bear serious costs: to purchase and update professional equipment, to pay for electricity and maintenance of the servers. Usually scammers aren’t aware of all pitfalls and peculiarities of advanced technology. They’re reluctant to waste time developing innovative services and supporting a team of top specialists. Their primary goal is to collect money and run away.
Secondly, there’s buzz about cryptocurrencies in all popular media and on the Internet now. In Japan, Bitcoin was recognized as the official currency of the country (since April 1 of this year). So all developed countries have to think about this and adapt their laws accordingly. The Russian government keeps considering developing their own cryptocurrency, while the president of Kazakhstan proposed to join forces to create such a global digital currency that would save the world from currency speculation. Apparently, society accepts digital currencies – or people at least have started recognizing the prospects for the development of digital money. If all of this were a scam, it would have been uncovered and cryptocurrencies would not have been able to spread so much and garner such great attention from the world community.
Thirdly, there are quite successful stories of traders on the web who have achieved high earnings via crypto trading. There are also negative reviews of traders, but without them one can’t imagine the functioning of any financial market (binary options trading or forex trading, for example). In the case of fraud, we would undoubtedly see a huge amount of negativity, such as complaints from traders about brokers as well as crypto exchanges.
Fourth, cryptocurrencies are actively shifting from the digital world to the real one. Digital money has successfully debuted offline, and today we have an excellent opportunity to observe it. Now you can pay with digital currencies in the USA, Russia, Japan, Europe (take advantage of the special interactive service coinmap.org to get a full list of countries where you can pay with Bitcoins). Digital currencies are accepted for payment on websites, in shops, restaurants, cafes, even as donations in the Temple of John the Theologian in the American city of Goshen.
In what cases can cryptocurrencies be a scam?
Cryptocurrencies have a mind-blowing dynamic that fraudsters are ready to use. They offer non-existent currencies, they do not give the opportunity to withdraw funds, cheat, and so on. We will tell you about typical examples of deception that are common in the crypto market:
Today users fall into the dirty hands of scammers, investing their money, seemingly, using a popular web resource they know. Victims see the design, texts, navigation, etc., that they recognize, but it turns out that the trader’s money got stolen and they are left with nothing. For example, it took place when the investor lost Bitcoins by working on a fake website disguised as a popular platform ShapeShift.io (continue to site).
Such fake websites often emulate reputable ones, including BitStamp image, Blockchain.info, and so on. By creating an exact copy of a popular web resource, scammers can do more than just take money from inattentive users – they also steal their passwords. Therefore, it is worth checking whether the name of the website you are working with is correctly written in the address bar of your browser.
On the Internet people often get messages from individuals who are ready to sell Bitcoins or accept payment in cryptocurrencies. There’s a high probability that this is a fraudster who will disappear as soon as you transfer money to him. Such scammers are real psychologists who are able to gain the trust of their victims. They’re even capable of hiding behind famous personalities in the Bitcoin community. They can send you fake documents, etc.
Another wide spread fraudulent scheme involves advertising for scam resources, which uses links to phishing (Wikipedia) or fake websites. They promise attractive bonuses and a 400% return on investment and announce allegedly recommended sellers who are willing to sell you a digital currency that does not really exist (here, they offer non-existent positive customer testimonials, values below market prices, and so on). Additionally, you can come across announcements for the sale of non-existent equipment for mining. In order not to fall into the hands of a scammer, you should study current scam lists, the identity of the seller, suspicious websites, and email addresses. Too profitable proposals, too many good promises (for example, triple benefits) – these are the things that should alert you.
Scammers associated with pyramids are excellent psychologists who are ready to promise you the maximum benefit. Oftentimes, pyramids hide under a beautiful site that promises a high profit (for example, 200-400% per annum). Additionally, if you always come across folks who are trying to lure you to such resources, they’re certainly a pyramid scheme. There are many options for pyramids on the Internet, but more often they offer income for storing cryptocurrencies (sometimes your money is frozen for a certain period of time), for using services for mining. To avoid problems with pyramids, approach with great caution each tempting offer.
Phishing websites and links
In order to take money from traders, scammers create malicious websites. Very often the externally familiar site turns out to be fraudulent. When the victim visits it, she or he ends up losing personal data, passwords, and what’s more, money. In order to not lose your data to phishing attacks, carefully look at the name of the web resource in the address bar of the browser, see if the connection is protected by the SSL-certificate, and click on the links of only verified users.
Deceptive schemes in applications and plug-ins
Currently, fraud can be found in applications and plug-ins. For example, it happened to the Localbitcoin application, which was available in the Android application store.
Fraud also occurred with an add-on for the Chrome browser, BitcoinWisdom Ads Remover, which sent funds to the fraudster’s wallet. How can you avoid such problems? You shouldn’t blindly believe the high ratings and a lot of positive feedback about a particular application. Before installing the program, contact the developer and find out if he or she is the author of the application. Look the information up on the Internet; maybe someone has already worked with it.
How to make money on cryptocurrencies: what should I remember?
Crypto trading is not merely buying cheaper and selling more expensive. It’s far more complicated and you should keep this in mind:
1. The cryptocurrency market not only is growing rapidly, but also is very volatile. After rapid growth their rate can suddenly fall, often leading to panic.
2. Large speculators operate in the crypto market, causing artificial leaps or drops in the value of digital coins.
3. Do not forget about politics. In May of this year, the popularity of Bitcoin grew due to political scandals in the US. Additionally, digital currency gained attention during the period of early parliamentary elections in Great Britain.
4. Apart from high potential profitability, crypto trading also suggests huge risks, so you should be very careful.
5. Only thorough analysis of the popularity of the cryptocurrency, its prospects, and the factors that influence the dynamics of the value will help you to earn decently.
To earn a decent income on cryptocurrencies and avoid losses, it is worth remembering these facts.
Do cryptocurrencies have prospects?
Of course, like others you also want to be aware of the future of crypto assets. When will this bubble finally burst? The collapse of digital currencies has been predicted several times. Such assets were often labeled as a pyramid scheme. The media urged the Internet community to forget about them, and developers to engage in more promising projects. Nevertheless, crypto assets managed to withstand all of the tests and today they continue to do amazingly well with volatility and high growth. The buzz continues along with endless disputes as to whether we need digital currencies and what will happen if we are officially allowed to use it.
Showing up on the Internet, crypto assets started actively moving into the real world. Everybody is eager to learn what will happen to them next. Some folks consider digital coins to be the future of the world’s financial system. Others argue that it’s another bubble. However, as always reality is somewhere in the middle. Some are assured that both cryptocurrencies and the blockchain technology that powers those solutions deserve attention, while others are confident that cryptocurrencies are going to become a reality when the development of technologies reaches critical levels. It might be a sort of compromise: some cryptocurrencies will disappear, while others will get along with the world system. For example, Bitcoin (continue to site) and Ethereum (continue to site) are capable of replacing world currencies.
Perhaps, cryptocurrencies as supranational money, which the world’s states can’t regulate, could be a nice solution for all, facilitating work with transfers and payments. However, it is worth considering all that is happening, because today we are all moving to the digital world and understand its advantages. Therefore, cryptocurrencies, as an integral part of the virtual world, are simply necessary for the convenience of calculations.
Today, a number of countries consider crypto assets to be promising. These are Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and Singapore. On the other hand, there are countries that have banned the use of digital currencies: Bolivia and Ecuador. Russian legislation bodies should prepare a draft document, in which much will be clarified regarding cryptocurrencies in this country.
Summarizing the value of all that is mentioned above, we can say that the future of cryptocurrencies is quite promising, and today we observe a number of trends that suggest cryptocurrency has a future. Here we can point out the ongoing discussion of the legalization of cryptocurrencies in the world, including Russia, its active exit from the online zone to offline, the constant growth of those interested in buying cryptocurrencies, etc. Like other technologies, cryptocurrencies are forced to develop through the problems and critical moods in society. However, despite the fact that some people do not trust cryptocurrencies, and others see the future in it, today the value of digital currencies is taking off and investors are investing heavily in the development of this industry. Of course, cryptocurrencies aren’t perfect and blockchain needs improvement, but it’s impossible to say «no» to digital currencies, as that would be naive and short-sighted.
Are crypto brokers fraudsters?
An important stage in the development of cryptocurrencies is the emergence of brokers, dealing with such specific assets. They make it possible to earn money by trading in digital coins. Today, crypto trading is offered by Forex brokers and brokers of binary options. As a rule, these are well-known companies: (Alpari (continue to site), Grand Capital (continue to site), 24option (continue to site), InstaForex (continue to site), HYCM (continue to site), Forex Club (continue to site), etc. Exploiting the constantly growing popularity of digital currencies, they offer them as assets.
Can these companies be considered fraudsters? In fact, you should know that trading is impossible without scammers and it will always be. Remember that fraudulent companies are created to deceive traders. It’s important for such scammers to get your money and escape with it. The fast-growing and incredibly dynamic crypto market also attracts scammers who are ready to do anything for the sake of deception. Your task in this situation is to identify a reliable company and work with it, without fear of entrusting your personal capital to them.
How to choose a trustworthy crypto broker?
It’s quite possible to find a reliable broker of crypto assets. The main thing is not to rush into the choice and not rush at the tempting offers of companies. In this part of the article we will tell you how to choose a reliable broker of cryptocurrencies:
1. You need to study the license of the broker (forex brokers, brokers of binary options). Licenses are provided on official websites by all serious brokers.
2. You need to study the reputation of the crypto broker, its work experience, and activity of the position. This information is available on the websites of those companies.
3. You should study the opinions of various traders about trading in this particular digital asset.
4. Try trading on the demo account of the broker. A demo account is not a useless online toy; it is an important tool of the trader, which helps to understand how serious the broker’s intentions are, whether the terminal works properly or not, and whether the service is of high quality, etc.
5. Learn the bonuses of brokers, including bonuses on a demo account. The matter is that bonuses are also one of the important tools of the trader, which will help to determine how honest the broker is with you. First, study the conditions of working with the bonuses, the possibility of withdrawing funds, and the conditions for working out the bonus. Next, you can start trading the bonus and try to withdraw funds.
6. Try real trading with a broker by transferring to the account the minimum possible deposit.
It’s worth doing such a serious job to be sure of the real intentions of the broker. However, things often go wrong. A naive trader chooses the most advantageous offer from a broker to work without worrying about the fact that a scammer can hide behind beautiful words and high profitability. We recommend to more seriously approach choosing crypto brokers if you want to save your nerves and money.
The whole truth about cryptocurrencies
The whole truth about cryptocurrency is that it is one of the most popular and fast-growing markets with high volatility and decent incomes. You can count on a decent profitability from this market, but it’s up to you to properly understand how to make money on these assets. You need to be able to make informed decisions, using all trading terminal tools (charts, terminals, indicators, robots for automatic trading, orders, etc.), monitoring the growth dynamics of digital currencies.
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