Friend Facebook messaging you? How these local residents lost thousands in Bitcoin scam

Posted at 12:10 PM, Oct 21, 2021

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Scammers are getting smarter and using people's trust in their friends against them.

The latest scam on the radar of the Better Business Bureau in Hampton Roads is involving Bitcoin.

Scammers hack into social media profiles of people you trust and talk about turning $500 into $10,000. The victim thinks they are talking to a trusted friend, who has made money from the process, when in reality they are talking to a scammer.

News 3 spoke with Joshua Banks, a Virginia Beach man, who said his family member fell for it and are now out $500.

"A close family member of mine - he was approached by someone that he knows, a close friend of his, pretty, much saying hey man, you know with this Bitcoin mining out here there's a lot of money that that can be made. Supposedly like he took his $500 and was able to make it $10,000," Banks said. "They were like, you know, I trust my friend more than anybody, I don't think my friend would lie to me. So he went ahead and sent that $500."

The so-called "expert investor" signed them up for Bitcoin.

He said it was incredibly convincing because "the mining expert" sends "receipts" from CashApp for all of the transactions. In hindsight those "receipts" are fabricated and likely photoshopped.

"With so much news around Bitcoin and trading it's not too far fetched to believe to some degree, especially when your 'friends' are showing 'proof'," he said.

It wasn't until the account was paused, and the individual was asked to hand over more money, that they saw the red flags.

"That's when we saw that the scammer person started kind of acting different like, 'well you can't get your money back until you upgrade the account.' So from that point on, he knew it was definitely a scam," Banks said.

Ariel Pinto, a cybersecurity expert with Old Dominion University, said scams surrounding cryptocurrecy are on the rise.

According to the BBB's scam tracker, close to a dozen people across Hampton Roads have fallen victim to similar cryptocurrency scams.

In one case, someone from Portsmouth reported losing $11,0000. Their public report stated, "BITCOIN told me this is an stock and trade option. But found out that I had to keep giving them money. I spend over 10k for a stock market that I haven’t seen or received."

Banks said it's important to speak out about this because his family member lost $500 and he doesn't want that to happen to anyone else.

The BBB recommends you should always be cautious online when dealing with cryptocurrency and investing because doing so carries significant risk. They warn you to only invest what you can afford to lose, and be aware that you may lose some or all of your investment.

If you have a friend reaching out to you on social media about investing in Bitcoin, the BBB said to contact them on another platform, via phone call or text message, to confirm it is really them and not a hacker in control of their online profile.

To reach out to the Better Business Bureau that serves Hampton Roads directly, call 757-531-1300. You can also report and look up scams on their Scam Tracker.

Click here to learn more about protecting yourself from scams.