COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — What James Lanham thought was the beginning of a blossoming romance turned out to be a sinister scammer using him for his cryptocurrency.
The fusion of romance and cryptocurrency has created the perfect storm for scammers, as several state agencies said scammers gain the trust of an unsuspecting victim and entice them to invest in the cutting-edge currency. At least, that’s what they’re told.
“One of the things we’re seeing, though, is with, for example, the romance scams. Those are now being fused with the cryptocurrency scams,” said Melissa Wright with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
For Lanham, it all started with a text message to the wrong number — that happened to be his.
“And it was a simple, ‘Oh, sorry,’ kind of a thing. And chit-chat kind of ensued,” Lanham said.
That was the beginning of his relationship with “Bonnie.” As their friendship grew, Bonnie convinced Lanham to invest in cryptocurrency, specifically a coin-collecting app called Coiniverse. Lanham did, for a total of $1,300.
“When I opened it up and started using it, it seemed legit as any of them,” Lanham said.
He made money on his first transaction, so he suggested using other platforms to invest more. Bonnie was against the idea, but Lanham decided to move his money anyway — without telling her.
“My first method was, I’m going to move it, the thousand, back from my Bitcoin wallet back over,” he said. “But it hasn’t shown up in my Bitcoin wallet.”
After several weeks and zero money in his Bitcoin wallet, Lanham realized all his money was gone.
“And that was when I found reviews,” Lanham said. “That’s what happens with the scam.”
John Crist, a corporation finance attorney for the Ohio Division of Securities, said from fake websites to fake mobile apps, social media is alight with cryptocurrency scams.
Better Call 4 asked Crist, whose division works to protect investors, to look into the cryptocurrency platform that “Bonnie” told Lanham to use.
“The website lists the expert team members, and it has pictures of those individuals,” Crist said. “Those are all stock photos.”
Crist said that anyone who is planning to invest should independently do their homework.
“Two of the greatest tools that you can utilize are information and education,” Crist said. “If you are investing any product, you should have an understanding of how that is going to make money, what is generating the return.”
Don’t simply rely on the word of someone you think you can trust.
“I think as long as you see this level of interest and this level of money flowing in, you’re going to continue to see cryptocurrency scams and scammers, unfortunately,” Crist said.
The division, which ranked cryptocurrency scams as the No. 1 scam in 2021, encouraged those interested in investing in cryptocurrency to check out their website to avoid scammer schemes.