PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) – Oregonians were tricked out of $13.6 million in cryptocurrency scams in the first 10 months of 2022, according to the FBI.
It’s one of the fastest growing schemes that also led to more than a billion dollars in loss of for Americans across the country in 2021.
FOX 12 recently spoke with a Portland man who said his entire world came crashing down when an online cryptocurrency scam left him hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and nearly penniless.
Dennis Corey sat down for an interview with FOX 12 in December, hoping to spread awareness so others don’t fall for similar scams.
Corey said he gave a scammer more than $200,000, before realizing the cryptocurrency trade exchange he was involved in was all fake.
“I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to get out of it,” Corey said. “How I’m going to get my bills paid off.”
It all started this past fall when a stranger reached out to Corey through Facebook messenger, flirting and striking up a friendship.
“He was a mutual friend – or I thought he was a mutual friend on Facebook and so then we just started chatting,” Corey said.
What unfolded next is what the FBI describes as a tried-and-true textbook case of a social media scam.
“With the socially-engineered crypto investment fraud schemes, somebody will get in touch with somebody, via social media — through messaging, through email — and start soliciting this next great thing, this next great investment opportunity with cryptocurrency,” explained Kieran Ramsey, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Portland office. “They’ll then perhaps move them into a private messaging chat.”
That’s exactly what happened to Corey.
“We started chatting and talking, idyll conversation to just get to know one another and then he goes, ‘Let’s go to WhatsApp and chat there,’” Corey said.
It was romance chat at first that then transformed into an investment partnership.
Corey said the man he was chatting with enticed him with an opportunity to make some quick money through crypto trading and even loaned him some money to get started.
“We started doing little trades like that,” Corey said, “I put in a $1,000 and then put in another thousand.”
“He’s like, ‘if we get to the next level, you know if you put in $50,000, then you can make some higher trades, more money,’” Corey added.
Corey said he was able to see his investments growing in an app he thought was legitimate.
“It would come up and say, ‘oh, you increased your amount by this much money’ and so the balance just started accumulating and accruing,” Corey said.
The nightmare begin when it became impossible to get his money back out.
“They started saying you need to pay a tax fee,” Corey recalled.
Desperate to collect what Corey thought was hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit, he said he took out a loan to pay the supposed tax fee, only to be told afterward that he had to pay a “certification fee” and then later, a “transfer fee.”
Before it was all said and done, Corey said he took out loans, advancements on credit cards and wiped out his savings.
“Meanwhile, they are sending me threatening messages, saying, ‘if you don’t pay me back, I’m going to sue you, my lawyer’s will find you, you think I can’t find you?’ And all these documentations,” Corey said.
Eventually, according to Ramsey, the scammer will wipe everything out and disappear.
According to Corey, that’s exactly what happened when he had no more money to pay fees and started to suspect he’d been targeted by a scammer.
“I’m emotionally drained, physically drained, psychologically drained,” Corey said.
He then reported his losses to Portland police, the FBI and the Oregon Department of Justice.
Portland police confirmed that officers took the report, telling FOX 12, “This case is showing victims in multiple states and that the suspect location is unknown.”
Portland police then referred the case to the FBI.
A spokeswoman for the FBI said the bureau can “neither confirm nor deny whether agents are investigating the case.”
Ramsey warns that these types of scams are rapidly picking up speed, with losses to crypto fraud doubling in the last year.
“It’s heartbreaking to hear,” Ramsey said. “One of the big problems with cryptocurrency is you see these false promises of easy money, being combined with people’s limited knowledge or limited experience with cryptocurrency, and it really sets it up for the perfect storm for a scam.”
Corey is doubtful he will ever see his money again.
In his 60′s, he fears for his finances and the future telling FOX 12 that anxiety and depression started to consume his life.
“I see everything I’ve gone through and I just want to get it out there to the public so people will be aware to not get involved in this – because this will totally upset their life and turn everything upside down,” Corey said.
Corey said he will likely drain his 401k to pay the debt.
FOX 12 rounded up some tips to avoid becoming a victim to cryptocurrency scams:
- If the deal or opportunity seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Online romance and investment are never a good mix.
- Steer clear of high-pressure sales tactics or time-sensitive opportunities.
- Always research the legitimacy of apps and websites.
If you are unsure of whether a website is legitimate, there are clues that help verify what’s safe.
Look for a padlock symbol at the beginning of the web address. You can also tell if a website has been authenticated by looking at the first part of the address. Authenticated websites begin with https:// instead of http://. Lastly, run a web search on the name of the company/website to see what comes up in a search engine.