How to Make US $18 million in 12 hours…or get scammed trying

In this article, Invest in Blockchain takes a first-hand look at what a Bitcoin scam can look like.

Bitcoin has been coined ‘digital gold’ for its reputation as a  viable long-term investment, a sentiment reinforced by Fidelity Investments, a US$2.3 trillion asset management firm.

But cryptocurrency can also be fool’s gold. I explore what happens when you venture down the rabbit hole of unscrupulous exploiters and seedy promises of cryptocurrency investment.

Bitcoin Edition: Fool’s Gold

A century ago, California, Australia, and South Africa all had their gold rush, with people streaming in from all over the world to cash in on the shiny new commodity that was guaranteed to blow all your troubles away with its promise of fame and fortune.

But mining gold wasn’t as simple as keep going until you hit paydirt. Enticed by the opportunity to leech off people’s hopes and dreams, scammers abound and were more than happy to relieve some poor hapless miner of his painstakingly earned find. Sometimes it was synthetic gold, sometimes a Gold-o-meter, but always scammers were at the ready to part someone from their gold.

Today, bitcoin’s digital gold make scammers eager to sell victims fool’s gold: something with a superficial resemblance to gold (in this case, a desire to cash in on the bitcoin craze), but turns out to be a false positive (meaning, you’ll be taken for a ride that you are paying for).

Bitcoin Scams on Facebook

Trawling Facebook groups and subReddits, offerings to “get rich quick” are a dime a dozen. Cryptocurrency is the Wild West, and there are rogue cowboys everywhere who are eager to don the hat and put on their snake oil salesman cap.

Lately, many Facebook groups have been cleaned up and strict rules enforced in an attempt to clean up content. It’s not often you go looking for a scam, but it was heartening that it took me a good few hours to find one.

Cryptoland - Bitcoin and Altcoin Community Facebook Group Scam Post

 

Cryptoland – Bitcoin and Altcoin Community, a group of 22,390 members, clearly doesn’t like spammers. Neither do Crypto Coin Trader‘s 42,470 members.

Crypto Coin Trader Facebook Group Spam Post

 

Finally, I made the connection. The most sophisticated scams come not in the form of a random link spammed all over well-administrated groups in cryptoville. Instead, the groups are the scams. And voila! Just like that, I discovered the motherlode.

Digging Deeper into Bitcoin World Traders

When a Facebook group has 12,630 members, it surpasses the small, still voice at the back of your mind saying, “this doesn’t appear to be very legit”. After all, that’s the foundation that social proof is built on.

 

Bitcoin World Traders Facebook Group

 

A quick look at members’ posts makes it clear that this is the hottest place to be on the internet right now.  Sad that most of them appear to be bots or hacked accounts. I would’ve loved to get their take on their newfound riches.

Skhumbuzo Godfrey, who made 70.41 BTC (to a total value of US$483,844.56) thanks to the group’s magical traders, says:

by d end of this year i will be so rich that my neighbors will think am selling dope because bitcoinworldtraders keeps paying and paying me. this is like my third time and am so happy. well well can’t wait till December 1st to invest again and hopefully i will be a millionaire by then.

Vincent Sparrow could bring tears to your eyes with his heartfelt story:

Kenya is a hard country and for a 22 year old boy like me to have $ 234,659.95 (24,357,468.15 Kes) is just unbelievable and impossible but this group facebook.com/groups/Bitcoinworldtraders made it possible. I had to sell half of my late step dads property to make this investment but am happy I did. Now am planning to get a house sorry mansion for my mum here in kenya. Thanks BitcoinWorld Tradersadmin, you are my savior.

Harmeet Singh, meanwhile, echoes most investors’ worst nightmare. Whether or not it’s a real profile, it’s a reminder that playing with fire means getting burned.

I just put in all i have into this group, hope i get paid tomorrow, my family and children are depending on this, please i beg u in d name of Allah don’t disappoint me. Here is also the hash id for the transaction [hash ID omitted]

One of the group’s success stories was so thankful, he even let his nails grow wild for the photo opp.

Bitcoin World Traders scam

I commented on a post, eager to learn more about the biggest deal the internet doesn’t know about. Especially since “Steal if you can, in 24 hours u [sic] refund what u stole” is sound investment advice.

Bitcoin World Traders Scam

My comment, however, got removed fairly quickly. Apparently, I was not adhering to their strict scam-proof policy….

Bitcoin World Traders scam

Soon thereafter, though, Facebook lets me know someone else has commented on the post. Bingo! This is not a fire drill: the scam is affecting real people.

Bitcoin World Traders scam

I contacted the poster – let’s call him ‘Mr Hopeful – straight away; good timing, as he was shortly thereafter banned from the group. An engineer from the Philippines, he is a husband and father to four lovely children. Buying into the golden promises made by the group and spurred on by what seemed to be above-board social proof in the form of user videos, he took the plunge and invested.

After hearing his story, I needed no further encouragement and dove straight in. There are 7 admins in the group, of which I contacted BitcoinWorld Tradersadmin. This is the same person that was in communication with our Mr Hopeful, and appears to be most active in the group.

Bitcoin World Traders Scam

A quick look at his profile suggests the possibility that the owner is Vietnamese-speaking. However, with no identifiable person details, it’s very likely not a lived-in profile.

Bitcoin World Traders scam

Mr Popular has a lot of friends … no surprise there, being Father Crypto Christmas and all.

Bitcoin World Traders scam

How to Win, or Lose Trying

I played the part of ‘clueless eager beaver’. Initial contact was met with a generic copy-pasted message on the nitty-gritty of this (let’s face it) once-in-a-lifetime experience. A hundredfold profit, and that within 24 hours?! Why are you still here reading? This is the big break we’ve all been waiting for.

Bitcoin World Traders Bitcoin World Traders

I continued playing the fool … anything for fool’s gold, right? But I have US$18,000 to bank as soon as I get this bitcoin-stuff all figured out.

My alter ego might have failed math, but there’s no way this sum is getting away from me. 12 hours (apparently even 24 hours was too long a wait to break into millionaire-dom) later, I will have a guaranteed (no, really, guaranteed) US$1.8 million in the bitcoin bank. How much does your investment portfolio make you, huh?

King Midas – heaven-sent as he is – explained that I owe praise for my future fortune to the expertise of “a group of traders who come together from different parts of the world” to trade like no one else in the world can. Move over, Wall Street! There are anons in the house of cards! Best of all, not to worry, they shave off their commission before they give me my +100. What a sweet deal this is!

 

No. No, that wasn’t best of all. Not only do I now have the roadmap on how to become a gazillionaire, but as a “highest investor” [sic] I will be eligible to join their “customer care” (which, one would presume, includes sharing my unheard-of successes on the Facebook group). And later, (if I’m a good girl?), I’ll be “upgraded to the trading sector” (when I’m big?).

A quick calculation (see, when there are millions at stake, I learn to count real quick) tells me the referral program will be even better than my initial 12-hour road trip to my first million. After all, there’s not a friend on my list who wouldn’t want to buy the keys to their financial kingdom in less than a day. Especially when it’s a guaranteed no-loss, exponential gain.

I didn’t continue the conversation because my source showed me where it would lead.  Unfortunately, he did take the plunge and invest. A quick scam-your-bitcoin-off-you is not the only thing this operation is after. There’s an additional ticking time bomb … as our source, Mr Hopeful, finds out. His unfortunate story is next.

Losing More than Just Bitcoin: Mr Hopeful’s Bitcoin Tale

What follows is the Facebook Messenger exchange between Mr Hopeful and the admin of the Bitcoin World Traders group. Remaining anonymous, this investor has agreed to let Invest in Blockchain use screenshots of his exchange with Bitcoin World Traders for the purpose of bringing the group’s dealings to light. He shared this with me stating, ”

Bitcoin World Traders scam

The significance of seeing the gains made by others is precisely why our source decide investing is a good call. After all, a whole Facebook group full of random people can’t be lying, right?

At the time of press, US$386.74 amounted to 19,803.01 Philippines Peso. The median monthly family income in the Philippines is 22,000 Peso. This is the kind of money that feeds a whole family.

You might think buying into something that – quite obviously – looks like a scam is self-inflicted pain. But to the average person, who has a head full of dreams and no frame of reference for how bitcoin – or even investing, for that matter – is put together, graduating from the school of hard knocks often come at an experiential price.

Thanks to an unexpected trading “jackpot” that just so happens to occur at the time he invests, the investor can now increase his windfall from a hundredfold to a thousandfold. Assuming he invests another 0.6 bitcoin.

Bitcoin World Trader scam
Editor’s note: Original image has been replaced by an updated screenshot due to an incoming message of a personal nature captured on the original screenshot

Thank goodness for budgets and weekly limits.

King Midas isn’t feeling up to divulging his treasure troves today. ‘Ask about your own 50 bitcoin, not my trillions.’

And with this, the bomb is dropped. Suddenly,  those bitcoin exchange regulations requiring ID verification no longer seems so intrusive. Not when compared to this unexpected demand of parting with your Facebook login details.

The lack of social proof on this particular little step which isn’t mentioned anywhere else is easily explained: Since no one wants their personal details blasted across the web (‘cos just imagine the damage if it got into villainous hands), the group’s poster children had simply erased it from their process sharing.

By now, our investor’s asking questions. Something isn’t computing.

Bitcoin World Traders scam

Au naturel, King Midas is playing hard to get. Is he planning on going rogue?

Not if you’ll do his bidding…so do it. Now!

Yes, the rest of us don’t understand it either. Nakamoto never mentioned Facebook, did he?

 

And with that, BitcoinWorld Tradersadmin went cold.

Caveat Emptor

Spurred on by bitcoin’s crazy upward climb, investing success stories in the media, and friends’ and acquaintances’ boasts, cryptocurrency is inspiring many virgin investors to throw caution to the wind and “get in before it’s too late”.

But the age-old adage applies: if it’s too good to be true, that’s probably because it isn’t.  Research investments thoroughly, get to know the industry (which is why resources like Invest in Blockchain exist!) and do your due diligence. This is the technological age, and anything can be tampered with to make you see what isn’t there.

Don’t end up like Mr Hopeful.