The dark underbelly of the cryptocurrency world has once again shown itself in a recent development reported by The Standard newspaper. The reports state that the Hong Kong police recently arrested 19 people related to a scam that had affected about 170 victims. Police recovered cash worth HK $1.4 million, cryptocurrency worth HK $50,000, over 100 smartphones, a luxury car and nine computers.
The scammers aged 18-31 rented apartments within the city from which they ran their scams with the younger ones among them acting as bait for unsuspecting victims. They would post pictures of themselves in flashy cars and give the facade of a luxury lifestyle on social media to attract victims looking to “make money” like them. The fraudsters would then have the new victims transfer huge sums of cash to them under the guise of cryptocurrency transactions leaving them with nothing. To support the facade, they set up fake crypto apps on the victim’s phones that showed false profits and balances. The scam would then be uncovered later on when the victims would attempt to withdraw the funds but on doing so would discover that there were no funds to be gotten. By that time, however, the scammers would be long gone.
Hong Kong is not the only country the scammers operated in with some other victims residing in Taiwan, Mainland China and the United Kingdom. One victim was scammed of around HK $760,000, the largest single amount lost. Although 19 arrests have already been made so far, the police have not eliminated the possibility of even more people being arrested in connection to the scam.
Crypto Scams Indicative Of An Inherent Problem
The increasing amount of criminal activity related to cryptocurrency has fast become indicative of a larger problem inherent to blockchain and its nature. While anonymity and immutability of transactions represent two of cryptocurrency’s greatest positives, they also serve as some of its greatest faults. The union of both features means that there is very little people can do when funds they hold on the blockchain are stolen. In the absence of an identity associated with a particular address, stealing funds is usually irreversible.
These faults are a major reason governments and industries across the world are calling for crypto regulation. A recent development has seen the world’s largest exchange, Binance, mandating its users to undergo KYC before they can access its services. Many users have voiced their displeasure at this development but Binance has defended its new policy stating that it is a compulsory step in ensuring user security.