Beware when you invest on cryptocurrency after seeing ads on social media, one couple learned the hard way.
A Gold Coast couple, who consider themselves well informed on alternative investments, said they thought that cryptocurrency was the way of the future.
Now their finances have taken a hit and are in jeopardy.
After they clicked a link on a Facebook ad they received a scam call from someone who said that they were a retirement investment adviser based in the UK.
The trusting couple were convinced by the man to invest approximately $330,000 – their total pension – in cryptocurrency over the course of two months.
They have now lost their money.
Earlier this year CHOICE reported Australians lost a total of $99 million to disingenuous cryptocurrency scams.
The ACCC has taken legal action against Facebook (now Meta Platforms). It’s alleging it has engaged in false, misleading or deceptive conduct by publishing ads with prominent Australian figures. These included David Koch, Mike Baird and Dick Smith who have nothing to do with cryptocurrency.
“[The investor] called both of us everyday for a month or more and gave us access to what was supposedly a cryptocurrency website,” the couple told CHOICE.
Dallas Robson said that she and her husband only invested a small amount of money initially. They were given the link to a website that looked legitimate. It showed their cryptocurrency was increasing in value everyday.
Over time their “advisor” sent personal information to convince them he was genuine. The personal information included photos of his supposed grandson and dog.
She also said that he had six properties in Noosa, Queensland and was divorced.
During the pandemic the man changed his approach and said that he had contracted COVID, so a new man begun calling them.
The new “advisor” pressured the couple into sending more and more money until they had none, by which time he asked for the house.
“Another man rang us who was supposedly from a firm who got money back from scammers,” Mrs Robson said. “It was also a scam and we lost a further $10,000 on our credit cards. A very big lesson in trust, sadly.”
The couple is now on a mission to stop others from losing money like they did.
“If we can stop one person from getting into this situation, then I would be absolutely over the moon. I don’t want anyone else to feel like we felt,” she said.
What can you do if you’re caught in a crypto scam?
They contacted the ACCC to help them recover the funds but due to the scammers being based overseas there was little they could do.
Other Australians have also been scammed, with one person saying they did their research and still lost $30,000. Another lost $50,000.
One other person spoke to CHOICE and said initially their investment was doing well. But, then the value lowered to an amount below the purchase price.
They decided to keep their investment. What they didn’t know was the company managing their Bitcoins had gone under and was taken over by another company.
They are hopeful that their Bitcoins are still out there but cannot yet retrieve them.
Like the scammers who harassed the Robsons, others that CHOICE spoke to were also pressured into buying cryptocurrency.
“The seller continued to push me to top up. I tried to sell but was being told otherwise. Finally, I just got sick of it and cut contact with those wolves.
“I’d rather lose the money that I already put in than be bothered everyday.”
CHOICE has made a submission to the Federal Treasury department and is calling for better regulation of the industry including measures to prevent fraudulent payments and to reimburse consumers when they occur. It is also calling for a licensing regime, similar to what financial advisors and mortgage brokers have to adhere to, which would be administered by ASIC.
The crypto market is doing well, according to a CHOICE senior policy adviser. However, legislation is not keeping up with the times leaving Australians are unprotected.
Some people have lost their entire life savings due to exchanges collapsing and they have no way to recover the funds.
CHOICE research reveals that there has been an increase in the number of scams and that 40% of people who want to buy crypto do not do so because of the risk of scams.