Srinagar, Kashmir: Ahmad, a 22-year-old IT graduate from Srinagar, Kashmir, wanted a regular engineering job. But then the Coronavirus pandemic hit, the job market shrunk and Ahmad decided he needed to make ‘quick bucks’. So, in 2020, after reading up several articles on cryptocurrency, Ahmad decided to invest in it too.
The 22-year-old was aware of the scams that come with the ‘good returns on investment’ in cryptocurrency. But neither that nor the frequent internet shutdowns nor the strict monitoring by the government on financial transactions in Kashmir, could stop Ahmad. Just a month into his cryptocurrency journey, he lost 2.5 Ethereum, approximately $8000 after he fell for the Elon Musk “giveaway scam”.
In a candid video interview with DECODE, Ahmad narrated how he fell for a crypto scam and how he recovered from it.
The global scam affected thousands. In 2021, the Federal Trade Commission in its report stated that Elon Musk impersonators have stolen at least $2 million from investors in cryptocurrency scams over the past six months.
The theft is part of a so-called giveaway scam, where con artists pose as celebrities or known figures in the crypto world. They promise to “multiply” the cryptocurrency that investors send — but pocket it instead. In this case, it was someone posing as Elon Musk.
Ahmad had a tough few weeks — his only thought was to find a way to retrieve the lost amount. He stayed away from apps, telegram and WhatsApp groups— that discussed cryptocurrency. And then, one day, he decided he will invest again. “It was the only financial space that would help me recover what I had lost,” he said.
Crypto scams are common. In 2020, crypto scammers targeted Twitter and took over high-profile accounts on the social networking site, including that of Elon Musk. The scammers made at least $121,000 in bitcoin from their hacking efforts, reported CNBC.
While some of these scams (pump or dump schemes) have been popularised by celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Floyd Mayweather, many are carried out by scammers by impersonating popular personalities like Elon Musk and Barack Obama on social media platforms and promising to double the amount of crypto that one sends to their wallet.
People who are new to the world of crypto are more vulnerable to these scams: The scammers make sure that their websites look legit, making it hard for even experts to differentiate them from genuine websites.