Scammers Exploit Crypto Boom by Targeting Novice Asian Investors

The growing cryptocurrency industry in Asia is a boon to fraudsters and scammers targeting amateur investors in the region.

The thriving cryptocurrency market in Asia is proving a boon to fraudsters and hackers, who target inexperienced investors in a region where financial literacy has not kept pace with the thriving economy.

In Japan, an estimated $520 million was lost to hackers when Coincheck got breached despite assurances from the digital currency platform that its system is capable of protecting itself against intrusion.

Hideto Fujino, president of investment advisory firm Rheos Capital Works, told Nikkei Asian Review:

"There is no such thing as a perfectly safe investment. Only fraudsters make such a promise. This has to become common knowledge, but it hasn't."

The report adds that India has seen interest in Bitcoin and other digital currencies spike over the past few months as prices jumped. Cryptocurrency exchange operator Zebpay, which holds a 70% share of India’s crypto market, boasts that an average of 200,000 new users join its platform every month. This figure is seen to hit 500,000 as the number of locals succumbing to the new investment craze also shoots up.

However, this rabid interest has also made India fertile ground for scammers. Authorities in the country have received hundreds of complaints from investors over alleged fraudulent virtual currency transactions, according to a Reuters report.

In South Korea, official news agency Yonhap said that authorities are investigating an alleged fraud affecting 18,000 people from 54 countries. They lost an estimated $250 million because of California-based Mining Max, which sells a machine for mining digital currency.

Crypto scams to rise this year

On Monday, we reported that criminal activities involving digital currencies are expected to increase this year. The scams are also becoming bolder and more sophisticated, as well as more personalized.

The five most common scams happening this year are fake or deceptive initial coin offerings (ICOs), fraud perpetrated by dubious exchanges, identity theft, fake giveaways, and pyramid schemes.

Scams using Twitter were discovered late last month and involved using fake accounts. One of them purported to be the that of Litecoin creator Charlie Lee and encouraged users to send a fraction of a coin to a certain address with a promise they would receive ten times the amount sent. Another fake targeted the NEO platform. Lee and NEO alerted Twitter to the scam.