Nigerians recount loses to crypto fraud

It is expected of every discerning investor to make thorough inquiries or seeking the services of professionals before taking certain investment decisions. In most cases, several Nigerians do not care about these guidelines and they usually get their fingers burnt.

Miss Bibi Umo, a young Corps member, is one of such unsuspecting investors. She invested about $1300 cumulated from her annual savings in a crypto fund, Nigerian Calabar Company.

The company targeted her and other unsuspecting members of the public through the aggressive social media campaign, urging them to invest with a promise of 2% interest daily, 14% weekly and 50% monthly.

According to her, the offer, which she subscribed to in December 2018, was too good to ignore, a move that made her lost her savings. Unknown to her, the investment and returns are a mirage.

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Another investor, Miss Bimbo, opened a Bitsane account ( an Irish crypto Exchange), around May 2019. After three weeks of crypto trading, “I was trying to transfer XRP out to bitcoin or cash or anything, and it kept saying ‘temporarily disabled.’

“I knew right away there was some kind of problem. I went back in to try to look at those tickets to see if they were still pending, and you could no longer access Bitsane.”

XRP is a cryptocurrency used by the Ripple payment network.

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Chidi Kanu, a graphic designer at an interior firm is another victim that believed she was fleeced. In her case, she invested $300 in a Nigerian cryptocurrency provider called Satowallet, hoping to keep his crypto coins safe.

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A few months later, Chidi couldn’t access his crypto wallet, even after sending numerous emails to Satowallet. The firm went offline, claimed it had technical with its servers on its webpage.

It is important to note that though Umo, Bimbo and Kanu might appear fleeced, there are several reputable cryptocurrencies, with no case(s) of fraud or alleged fraud. Some of them are Bitcoin, Ripple, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, and Cardano among others.

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The Federal Government, through the Securities and Exchange Commission, on its own part has not really been quiet. While critics believe it can regulate the market better, findings revealed that SEC had clamped on several Ponzi Scheme operators and in some cases refunded the victims.

Critics argued that the capital market apex regulator needs to be more proactive, as a number of such firms find a way to beat the regulator in the operational. For instance, when the government began a crackdown on bank accounts linked to the Ponzi scheme firms, MMM’s operators cut the banks out and asked victims to use Bitcoin.

By the time MMM suspended its payouts, shortly before Christmas 2016, it had swindled about 3 million people Nigerians, where the per capita annual income is less than $3,000—of $50 million.

Billions of dollars have been lost because of the ignorance of people who are new to the cryptocurrency market. Nigeria is no exception to these crypto scammers.

These fraudsters know how well to capitalize on the 2017 bull run, as they promise investors huge returns within a short period. Greed may also be a common reason why people lose their money to fraudsters.

In addition, many of these Nigerian investors are also seeking new ways to make quick and extra profits as the nation’s economy continues to fail under the current administration.

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Sadly, they end up losing all the money they have, as some owners of these Ponzi schemes tell investors that they generate returns by speculating the price movement of cryptocurrencies via claim they profit from buying and selling different coins via exchanges.

(READ MORE: Cryptocurrency: Discern investors’ goldmine )

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) declared war on fraudulent Ponzi scheme operators. It also warned the public to stop patronizing the get-rich-quick schemes. Losses from cryptocurrency crime surged to 4.52 billion dollars in 2019, as insider theft soared even as hacking losses declined, according to a report from blockchain forensics company, CipherTrace.

Despite the warning and tales of woe and agony that usually follow the loss of money to the “money-doubling” schemes, also known as Ponzi or Crypto transaction, many Nigerians still take a chance and end up with stories that touch the heart, after losing their hard-earned money to scammers.

As Nigerians continue to lose millions of dollars to crypto fraud, regulatory authorities in the country seem mute and unable to take corrective actions to protect investors against crypto fraud.

Earlier last week, the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issued a warning that the coronavirus outbreak might be providing criminals with the opportunity swindle investors out of their crypto assets.

“Scammers are sophisticated, opportunistic, and will try many things,” the organization said in a statement. They are also very likely to target the vulnerable. Beware of investments that appear too good to be true. If you decide to invest in something offering a high return or in a crypto asset, you should be prepared to lose all your money.

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(READ MORE: French Government addresses the danger of Facebook’s Cryptocurrency)

A major challenge remains the police, and other enforcement agencies know little about cryptocurrencies, so it becomes an issue of a bat catching a dragonfly in daylight.

In addition, in 2018, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), as well as the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), were all directed by the Senate to educate Nigerians on the risks involved in trading with cryptocurrencies, but this report shows the enlightenment campaign has done little or nothing to dissuade Nigerians.

SEC recently said it was developing a regulatory framework for the digital currency sector, providing crypto education for law enforcement agencies, which would go way in protecting investors.

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