(COLORADO) — Cryptocurrency has become a popular way to invest money over the past few years and scammers have taken note. FBI Supervisory Special Agent Brian Blauser talked about the newest scams and how they are perpetrated.

“The rise of the scammers utilizing cryptocurrency as of late has really been because cryptocurrency has really gained a lot of traction in mainstream. Fraud schemes and scammers have been out there a long time, it’s just the new and latest and greatest mechanism they’re utilizing to pull off their scams,” Special Agent Blauser said.

He warned that romance scams are in full swing with Valentine’s Day approaching and people should be aware of the potential to be contacted by a scammer. The scam would likely start on a dating website or app where the scammer could make contact under the pretext of making a connection with the potential victim.

Romance scams start off by obviously a dating website; the scammers are trying to develop any type of rapport with the person on the other side, the potential victim in this case, and really just develop what they feel is an online relationship with this person, they have usually never met in person, have never spoken to by phone, they only usually exchanged email messages, chat room messages, there is minimal real-world contact.

Supervisory Special Agent Brian Blauser

The scammer will groom their victim through this fictitious internet connection, not unlike catfishing but with the express purpose of getting funds, either fiat currency (government-issued currency) or crypto, from the victim. The scammer will come up with a plausible reason to need the funds and draw on their victim’s sympathy.

“Sometimes the scammers will have the person wire funds to a bank account or they may walk them through the process of how to establish a cryptocurrency wallet and then transmit the funds via the wallet address to the bad guy’s wallet address that they maintain, similar to a bank wire but there is no bank involved at all,” Special Agent Blauser said.

The transfer is similar to using Venmo but without the fiat currency or banks. Scammers will milk the funds from the victim as long as they can. “Pig butchering” or investment scams are also popular ways to try to fleece a potential victim of their money.

Special Agent Blauser said, “The potential victim rarely knows much or anything about cryptocurrency, and that’s what the scammers are really capitalizing on. They will convince the potential victim ‘hey this is a great opportunity, I’ve made so much money and I would love to walk you through the process of how to do such, serve as your mentor.'”

Scammers work to draw in a victim by encouraging low or no-risk investments. They do this by allowing the victim to invest a small amount of money and fake the return on investment data through whatever website they have fraudulently set up. This entices larger investments on the part of the victim, parting them from more of their money.

Those who think they are a victim of a cryptocurrency scam can report it to ic3.gov, the FBI’s internet crime complaint website. There is some chance that victims who report quickly enough and contact their bank can retrieve their fiat funds.

“As the old saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. That really holds true with a lot of these things, you’re usually talking to a person that you’ve never met before, you might have been only introduced to via unsolicited text message, a dating website, or social media profile… there’s not a lot of history with you and this person… Please do your own independent due diligence on the investment opportunity,” Special Agent Blauser said.