There is a new investment scam targeting first-time founders. Here’s how it works.

SCAMMERS! SCAMMERS!

Photo by Lindsey LaMont on Unsplash

Getting funded is a pain in the ass and recently a new scam is hitting founders with little experience with cryptocurrency.

I’ve tried my hardest to simplify this but there may be some terminology that isn’t clear. All you have to understand is this: if you don’t know how to control a cryptocurrency wallet securely, do not take investment in cryptocurrency.

I am writing this because I’ve seen people hurt by this scam and the companies in question did nothing. This is a warning for anyone in the same position.

The scam goes like this: you, the founder, might be running a fundraise or doing an equity funding round. The scammers will target users on Fundable, for example, and explain that they are very interested in your product and are willing to fund your entire round in crypto.

They will most likely contact you through WhatsApp. There is some suggestion that they have access to an exploit that will inject something into your Chrome browser but I haven’t confirmed that exploit. Just assume by the time you start chatting you’ve been compromised.

The scammer will say they are from a seemingly stodgy old investment group. One victim was contacted by the FamilyInvestmentGroup.com (SCAM LINK) and investors named David Boccard (david@familyinvestgroup.com) and Albert Kriken (albertkriken@gmail.com). The scammers will go through a full song and dance, saying they would invest in the victim’s company. They will then ask if the victim accepts cryptocurrency.

Here’s where the scam starts. The scammers will ask the victim to create an account on Blockchain.com. The victim’s Blockchain.com account is most likely compromised at this step. Blockchain.com is notoriously lax when it comes to security and it is not a safe wallet. Do not use it to store crypto. Once the victim creates the account, the hackers will surreptitiously take control of this account.

The scammers begin the scam by asking to meet. They’ll make it very hard to meet. My friend was about to get on a plane to go to Belgrade to meet his scammers. Eventually, plans will fall through and the scammers will decide that they will still invest but will instead offer a smaller amount — $500,000 or so. They will need a good-faith amount in the account, however, to show fiduciary stability (or something). They will the victim to put in $5,000 or so and they will put in $20,000. Then they will ask for another $10 or $20K, which the victim quickly places in the Blockchain.com account.

I suspect you know where this is going.

The scammer the victim along for as long as they believe is feasible. The victim believes their cryptocurrency is safe in the Blockchain.com wallet and they won’t worry about buying and putting more money into the account. The scammers will keep putting a little money in and asking for more “insurance.” Incidentally, any investor who asks you to buy insurance on their investment is most likely a scammer as well.

The scammers will be very angry when the victim tries to move the crypto. Once my friend got wise and moved the entire amount to Kraken — a decidedly more secure site — scammers were livid. Out of fear he dragged his entire amount back — in excess of $25K of his own money — and as soon as it landed the scammers took their “investment” and his cash.

In my friend’s case, the scammers quickly pulled up stakes and closed the websites they used. Not before they made fun of him on WhatsApp.

This is not a new scam. I’ve seen emails using similar techniques pop up and anyone running an equity crowdfunding campaign is almost certainly seeing these. Do not respond!

No Valley investor will ever send you crypto. No real investor will send you a million in crypto. Do not accept crypto for investment unless you know exactly what you’re doing. Blockchain.com and Fundable won’t accept any responsibility for this scam and Blockchain.com is well-known for this sort of behavior.

Writer And Entrepreneur

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