Scammers are prolific. I’m almost certain they’ve thought of everything by now. Right when you think you’ve seen it all, sure enough, you will run into a new one.
Or an old one. I am embarrassed to admit, right when I think I have been privy to every conceivable scam under the sun, I somehow found myself jumping headfirst into the proverbial spiderweb of a popular scam like a fly with a death wish. But we’ll get to that.
I’ve been running into a variety of scams lately. True to the old adage, “no rest for the wicked,” there is a common social engineering crypto investment scam that’s finding its way through SMS text messages. Initially, the ruse appears as an innocuous mistaken text, meant for someone else. But it’s meant for you.
Scammer: "Hello, I’m Lucy. Is this Benjamin’s phone number?"
You: "Sorry? I think you have the wrong number."
Scammer: "My apologies! I hope I didn’t bother you. My secretary gave me your number."
In my response to the last scammer who asked me if I had received the plan to invest in encrypted currency from their secretary, I replied, “I sure have! I’m so excited! I bought 40 shares of blockchain!”
"Do You Have Blockchain?"
Put simply, it’s a bait message meant to lure anyone willing to continue texting with the person, and ultimately cultivate a friendship, which can go on for days or longer. As time continues, the texts incrementally become uncharacteristically personal. Until they broach the subject of crypto. Then it’s all downhill from there.
The funny part is that no matter how many messages like this I might receive, none of the scammers have much knowledge about how cryptocurrency or blockchain technology actually works, and that’s great.
On dating apps, it’s the same trick, but the circumstances are a little different. The scammer poses as someone who just moved to the US from a foreign country. They often send messages in broken English, which has a bit of an allure to people who are attracted to a vulnerable individual who doesn’t really know the local language very well. But it’s all a part of the lure.
One time, I spoke to this “lady” from “China” who was similarly situated. But then one day, she spontaneously began discussing extremely intricate things about crypto investing, using exhaustive industry terminology that was downright ridiculous, since most of it went over my head, and I’m a crypto writer!
But to someone else, she exuded an air of superior intelligence that others might have found fascinating. I merely yawned and blocked the account because the sudden change in dialogue made it obvious that the person knew English very well, and could articulate some complex aspects of crypto technology.
However, most scammers of this variety are simply dilettantes who seemingly acknowledge that the phenomenon that is crypto does in fact exist, but have literally no point of reference about how to discuss it, without sounding silly. “Do you have blockchain?”
Why yes. Yes, I do.
Anyone who knows me personally will tell you I love to buy things online. I’m an avid eBay and Amazon shopper. I know the pitfalls of online shopping, especially if there isn’t any buyer's insurance, and the item is being sold by a private seller.
Recently, I purchased an expensive item on eBay from a private seller. I knew it was a risky purchase, but I can be an impulsive spender. I need… things. Furthermore, I thought I was being careful, but I hadn’t been scammed on eBay before.
The description of the product and where the item is manufactured seemed legitimate at first glance. But that impulse, burning within, was driving me to hit that “Buy It Now” button fast, because there were reportedly only two left in inventory.
Needless to say, there’s a sucker born every day. I looked at the seller’s history, which showed 100% customer satisfaction, good reviews, and that the account had existed for over seventeen years. They mainly sold gold Donald Trump coins. This was a bit strange since they had no record of ever selling this kind of item before.
Within the week, I contacted the seller and asked how long it would take for the item to be shipped. They explained that the item was being shipped from China in three days.
The next day, the item was “shipped” from a US address. I inquired about this, and they responded, saying, “I ordered the item from a different vendor in the US because the vendor in China was taking too long for delivery.”
The next day it was shipped. Two days later, FedEx tracking reported that it had been left at my door. But guess what? No package. I contacted FedEx and learned that the seller had mailed it to a different address.
Still, it could have been a mistake. But while these events unfolded, I discovered that the product has no Chinese vendor, and the shipper’s address was in Indiana, which also isn’t a vendor location.
I contacted the vendor and reported the account and, also, reported the fraudulent activity to eBay. Then, I sent the seller a message. It would be the last message I had send:
“This is an XYZ Product, the specific model is made by XYZ United LLC., and shipped from the XYZ offices in Arcadia, California. The information you’ve provided is fraudulent. You have been reported to XYZ United LLC and eBay. If you don’t refund my payment within 24 hours, then I will report your profile to the FBI. Either way, you will refund my money.”
They refunded the payment that very day, and that’s great. Later that day, they proceeded to sell the same item using the watermarked images they stole from XYZ United, pricing the same nonexistent item at an additional several hundred dollars. Nevertheless, eBay and XYZ United will take care of the scammer and shut the operation down.
The lesson here is simple: do your research. Or better yet, I will do my research.
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