Beware of ‘crypto romance’ scam if mixing business with pleasure

Beware of ‘crypto romance’ scam if mixing business with pleasure

By Mehab Qureshi

Twenty-eight-year-old Nikhil (name changed), a crypto investor based out of Pune, had hopped on to several dating apps, but with no luck. One night, he was messaged by “a beautiful woman” on Twitter, who claimed to be from Singapore. What followed seemed a match better than anything a dating site could have offered. The duo discussed crypto, football, pizza, and even exchanged WhatsApp numbers.

About two weeks into their ‘relationship’, the woman sent him a link that looked like a non-fungible token (NFT) airdrop. As soon as Nikhil clicked on it, his wallet was hacked and NFTs worth Rs 10 lakh were stolen. “She then blocked my number. Her profile does not even exist on Twitter,” he said. Many investors are falling victim to such ‘crypto romance’ fraud. And Twitter is the place where many of these criminals first contact potential victims.

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Neel Sinha, a crypto enthusiast, termed these incidents as the ‘fake Asian girl crypto scam’. “First of all, you get a ‘Follow’ request from an Asian woman on Twitter. She talks about your crypto trading experience and says you are doing the whole thing wrong. Then she tells you she might have a better trading option,” he said. Things are definitely on the wrong track if that person shares a link. “If you click and authorise that transaction, there is no way to go back,” he added.

Garv Malik, a stand-up comedian and crypto influencer, gets at least 1 or 2 such DMs a week. “These profiles usually have Asian or Caucasian women, and an easy target for them are Indian men, who aren’t used to women messaging them first,” he said.

Data shows that as the popularity of Bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies rises, so has the incidence of crypto scams. Crypto investors have lost more than

$80 mn in scams since October, a 1,000% increase from the fall of 2019, according to the US Federal Trade Commission. People between 20 and 39 years of age accounted for about 44% of the losses, the FTC said.

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So how can crypto enthusiasts stay safe? “What makes these scams more dangerous is that it is difficult to locate the wallets into which the cryptos are transferred,” Sourajeet Majumder, a cybersecurity expert, explained. In his view, it is best that users avoid clicking on any links. He advises them to “be smart with their wallet credentials and never share their seed phrase (recovery phrase) with anyone.” He also recommends users looking out for fake giveaways, remembering that if a deal is too good to be true, it probably is a fraud. “Check whether an NFT website is secure or not; you can use tools like Trend Micro, which are available for free,” he said.

EMERGING THREAT

* Women, mostly Asian, on Twitter are duping crypto investors of their NFTs

n Crypto investors have lost more than $80 million in investment scams since October 2021

* What makes such scams particularly dangerous is that it is difficult to locate the wallets into which the cryptos are transferred

* Users should avoid clicking on any links, as they can also lead to fraudulent exchange sites

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