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Held hostage by cryptocurrency scammers

Photo: File/SunLive.

A Tauranga man thought he had turned $3000 into $31,000 in just weeks through cryptocurrency, but he now knows he’ll never see a cent of it.

Bruce Harding believes he has fallen foul of a pushy cryptocurrency scam that took him for thousands of dollars but could have cost him more had he not stopped.

CERT NZ, a government cybersecurity body, warns scams involving cryptocurrency or fake traders are becoming more and more common in New Zealand.

Bruce is sharing his misadventure in the hopes others do not fall into the same trap.

“I was first contacted via Instagram,” he says. “We got to talking about this investment opportunity through ExpresscoinFX.com.”

“I gave him $100 or $200, and he showed me the profits of that before he started, and that was about $5000 in a few days." 

Other people contacted by the scammer were provided an example of an account the trader set up for his niece which showed $200 turning into $1500 in just three days.

While Bruce could see the login system showing him that money was being earned, he could not see how it was being accumulated.

“Every few days he would message and say, check your account. And there would be another few thousand in there.

“From there he said we could partner up and invest more money. It was about $1500 at a time to get a higher return."

Whenever he was unable to pay a request for money his trader would take whatever he could from Bruce and “pay” the rest himself.

However, when he asked to withdraw $24,000 of the supposed $31,000 he was met with more resistance.

He was told he had to pay $2500 before he could receive any money.

“Once you pay the $2500 mate your funds will be transferred into your bank,” the trader said via text.

Again he was told to get a bank loan, borrow from parents or ask friends to pay the money.

Harding has still not received any money.

“They were really pushy and always at you,” he says. “I feel bad to have been tricked but I can’t believe it happened to me. Looking back at it, there were red flags that I should have seen quicker. Just be careful everyone.”

Stuff contacted ExpresscoinFX, as well as the representative who contacted Harding, who was quick to say the investment is not a con.

“Let’s say you get started with $2000. You’re assured of earning $14,500 profits weekly,” he says. 

He talked about a 93 per cent guarantee and that no one lost their money thanks to “auto robot software” which automates trades on oil, gold and currency exchange rates.

After confronting the representative with details of Harding’s case, the conversation stopped and the messages were deleted from their end.

Conversations with their live help desk also stopped. 

Searching the site data reveals the site was hosted on January 2, 2021 with protection software purchased to mask the real identity.

The domain host was contacted for additional information and is investigating.

expresscoinfx.com is also listed as having a very low trust level on scamadviser.com, a website which examines whether sites are safe or a scam.

The site’s algorithm examines many factors, such as the ownership details, location, threats and phishing, to come up with a trust score. expresscoinfx.com got a rating of 1 per cent.

This indicated that “expresscoinfx.com has a very low trust score which indicates that there is a strong likelyhood the website is a scam. Be very careful when using this website”.

CERT NZ incident response manager Nadia Yousef says cryptocurrency scams are on the rise.

“These scams generally involve phishing emails or fake websites which advertise cryptocurrency investment opportunities with attractive returns. 

“Another iteration of this scam is where websites offer direct sales of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoins, Litecoins or other altcoins, which don’t result in any transfer once the victims have paid.

”Unlike other financial investments, which are regulated by the New Zealand Financial Market Authority, cryptocurrency is not regulated by a central authority.

“This presents a big risk to anyone investing in cryptocurrency as there’s no recourse if something goes wrong.” 

Nadia says people need to be aware if things sound too good to be true, they probably are.

-Stuff/Matt Shand

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