A 23-year-old Calgary man says he was cheated out of thousands of dollars by an online hacker posing as a cryptocurrency seller.
Brendan Lebert, who previously held legitimate online investments, says the scam was sophisticated enough to fool him – and he fears others could fall for it too.
“I want people to understand how easily it can be done,” he told CTV News. “I mean, I’m a youngster, I feel like I’m very tech-savvy, and I have a degree in justice studies. I thought I knew how to avoid these kinds of situations, and yet they got me anyway. “
Lebert says he was contacted late last month via Instagram by someone he thought was an old friend. After a few exchanges of messages, this person convinced the Calgarian to pay on a website that trades in crypto.
Lebert was informed that the site would help him invest in Bitcoin.
“I had no reason to be suspicious of this person,” he said. “I thought I knew them.”
And his first investment seems to be paying off.
“I thought in one day with a $1,000 investment, I made $6,700,” Lebert said. “I was very excited. I said to my friend, well, the person I thought was my friend, ‘that’s amazing. We’re on the ground floor for something big here.’”
But Lebert had no idea that the person he was messaging on Instagram wasn’t his friend. He now believes the social media account was hacked by a fraudulent investor hoping to trick Instagram followers into exploiting their personal connection.
When Lebert went to withdraw what he thought was a successful investment, he says he was told to pay even more to access his own account.
“They said I could cash out, but before that there’s a processing fee I have to pay,” he said.
“I thought I knew this person, so I thought I had nothing to worry about. It was when they finally asked for $3,500 insurance costs that I finally understood. I can’t believe what I just entered.”
In total, Lebert says he gave away nearly $7,000 before realizing his investment wasn’t real.
Similar crypto scams are common.
“If you want to (invest), definitely do your homework,” said University of Calgary finance professor Alfred Lehar. “The cost of security and the responsibility of cryptography falls on the user, so you have to be very careful.”
Lehar recommends researching reputable crypto investment websites online before spending any amount.
He also recommends keeping a personal eye on any money invested — and maybe even speaking with a financial adviser before making big decisions.
“(The scammers) want to take advantage of you, especially since there aren’t a lot of people out there who are knowledgeable about how crypto actually works,” Lehar said.
The world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, Binance, said in November that global regulators should establish rules for crypto markets to protect users and prevent financial crimes.
Lebert wishes someone could have helped him. He is currently working with the police and his bank to recover the stolen funds, but says he is not optimistic the case will be solved.
“My heart is broken,” he said. “I worked very hard for my money and I’m so ashamed. I feel embarrassed.”
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Center has more information about cryptocurrency scams and how to report them on its website.
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Calgary Man Loses Thousands of Dollars to Cryptocurrency Scam
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