It seems like nothing is beyond the reach of crypto scammers. After phishing attacks, rug pulls, fake giveaways, and several other elaborate schemes, cybercriminals are now turning to LinkedIn to scam crypto investors.
In an interview with CNBC on June 17, 2022, FBI Special Agent Sean Ragan revealed that the networking platform has become a hotbed of illicit activity. He said these crypto scams pose a “significant threat” to LinkedIn and members of its community.
How do these scams work?
Ragan explained that scammers create fake professional-looking profiles and engage in conversations with hand-picked users through the built-in messaging feature.
Scammers first direct victims to legitimate investment platforms in order to gain their trust. They build a relationship with the victim for several months before convincing them to move the money to another platform, which is anything but legit and is usually operated by the scammer themselves. Therefore, the money is lost as soon as it leaves the victim’s wallet.
“This type of fraudulent activity is significant and there are many potential victims. There are also many past and current victims,” Ragan said. A group of victims who came forward as part of the CNBC interview revealed that the amounts embezzled ranged from $200,000 to $1.6 million.
Since LinkedIn is a trusted platform for professional networking, victims tend to take messages from strangers a bit more seriously. After all, it is a platform for professionals to meet new people and build relationships within their industry.
This method also seems to be an offshoot of the common Honeytrap romance scams of popular dating portals. Only, instead of romance, scammers use the appearance of business, networking, and job opportunities to build relationships and trick users into parting with their hard-earned money or cryptos.
LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft, is present in more than 200 countries with more than 830 million users worldwide. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the money lost from these investment-related frauds amounted to $575 million between January 2021 and March 2022. LinkedIn also admitted in a statement that such fraudulent activities are increasingly prevalent on its platform and that it is doing its best to deal with it.
So what is LinkedIn doing about it?
For starters, LinkedIn has stepped up filtering and blocking of accounts. In 2021 alone, the company disconnected 32 million suspicious accounts. In one of its reports, LinkedIn published that its automated cybersecurity systems stopped 96% of these fake accounts dead in their tracks between July 2021 and December 2021.
The system also flagged 11.9 million fake accounts during registration and identified 4.4 million malicious accounts during operation. These accounts were quickly blocked and deleted. LinkedIn also encourages users to file complaints and report these incidents so they can be effectively managed.
“We enforce our policies, which are very clear: fraudulent activity, including financial scams, is not allowed on LinkedIn. We work every day to keep our members safe, and that includes investing in automated defenses and manual to detect and address fake accounts, misinformation and suspected fraud,” LinkedIn told CNBC.
What can investors do to avoid such situations?
Interacting with strangers on the Internet is only acceptable if at a distance. Letting them into your financial affairs is like inviting a stranger into your home and believing that nothing will go away.
The FTC recommends the following tips if you want to interact safely on internet platforms such as LinkedIn:
-Do not fall into heavy income: Only scammers promise you high returns in incredibly short time.
-No legitimate business will insist on cryptocurrency: It’s a blatant red flag if you’re being asked to pay in cryptocurrency “only”.
-Romance and investment should not be united: If such interest prompts you to move some of your crypto to a different address, be sure to keep your distance. Romance scams have defrauded $185 million people since 2021 and are the second most common online scam after investment scams.