Unearth Crypto Mushroom Scams Fast on WhatsApp
Terabytes have been written about the modus operandi of major crypto scams involving Bitconnect, GainBitcoin, OneCoin and others. And the latest in this space seems to be the WhatsApp scams with zero checks and balances. India has literally become a hotbed of crypto frauds that are thriving on the messaging app, given the increase in the number of users the country has added over the past 18 months and their questionable activities.
In China, a similar modus operandi was popular in 2018 and 2019 when many âcryptoâ entities migrated to WeChat to evade polling agencies. In India, as of August 2021 (this is the first WhatsApp group with suspicious activity that Inc42 can trace), hundreds of WhatsApp groups have been created by pseudonyms who act as BTC (Bitcoin) investment analysts. and attract people by Guaranteeing 95-100% Return.
As various Inc42 members have been added to at least 30+ of these groups, we think it’s high time to dig deeper and find out what these WhatsApp groups are doing.
Inside the dark world that promises gold
It all started in August of this year. I have been added to three WhatsApp groups called BTC Fortune VIP16_001, BTC Get Rich VIP10_001, and BTC Get Rich VIP10. Quite a few of my colleagues were also added to similar groups, but the final numbers varied. There was no initial conversation as to why I was added to a group of unknown people or who ran these groups. No authorization was requested either.
After talking to my networks and colleagues, I realized that almost 60% of them were in such groups, and a few were added to more than three groups, each with a minimum of 100 members.
All of these groups have similar names like BTC Get Rich VIPXX, BTC Fortune VIPXX, BTC Contract VIP and so on, where XX is the number that changes each time. And most of these groups are strangely similar.
âTrading bitcoin contracts is the fastest growing wealth product. From rags to riches, join us and you will get there â- the rant went on and on.
Although 95% of the phone numbers displayed on these WhatsApp groups are from India, some of them, including a few numbers belonging to group admins, are from Hong Kong, Indonesia, UK and African countries. . (Does Africa mean anything to you?) Interestingly, almost all of the help numbers listed by so-called BTC investment analysts are Hong Kong numbers only.
The anatomy of a crypto scam designed to outsmart you
At first glance, it’s as easy as ABC. After creating a group and adding hundreds of numbers, someone acting as a BTC investment analyst starts with a welcome note and then gets straight to the point.
âHere I will guide you on how to get more money. This is the bitcoin trading group of BTUW Investment Consultants Ltd. Over the next couple of days, I’ll be sharing with you how to increase your wealth with bitcoin, let your wealth grow fast, and achieve your career in wealth. Whether you are a novice or a veteran, you can carefully observe the group information. Because it can really pay off for you.
Soon after, a small group of four to five people will start discussing BTC 101 (basic information like what it is and how to make money) and within minutes will start acting like pom-poms. girls.
After a short time, the âanalystâ gets to the point and details how to set up the investment in a bitcoin contract.
Here is an overview of the step by step procedure:
- Get a cryptocurrency wallet (https://www.binance.com/fr)
- Configure a WTP exchange account (http://77wtp.com/dist)
- Choose an investment plan that’s right for you.
In most of these scam groups, trade links shared with members include GD-Global, aka BTUW, WTP, and Coin Global for Bitcoin contract investments.
Interestingly, all of these groups on WhatsApp ask people to only create or promote Binance wallets. After most investment suggestions from an âanalystâ, the cheerleaders show up to confirm the benefits 100%.
We found one of the groups called BTC Fortune VIP12 that promises returns on JST mining. Promising returns vary as shown in the chat below:
Kelan, the group’s assistant, then asked the user to download a token wallet and deposit up to 30,000 USDT (a stablecoin equivalent to $ 1) to earn mining rewards.
The flow of money
Every day, most of these groups see transactions worth $ 400 to $ 800 from three or four orders.
To understand the big picture, let’s assume that at least 100 of these groups have been active in the past four months, the average daily trades are $ 500. This means a monthly total of 500 x 30 x $ 100, or $ 15 million, collected by all active groups. However, the amount could be much larger as we have kept the daily trade value at $ 500.
Also, these transactions rarely fall under income tax or ED scanner.
What is so worrying about these crypto investing programs
People don’t use their name or other details: Almost all of these groups use similar language, and group members carefully mask their names and other details so that no one can google them. And interim investment analysts are always careful not to answer calls in order to avoid direct communications with legitimate investors.
Company details are missing: The company names mentioned in these groups have little or no details, and no one can independently verify them. For example, in groups called BTC Contract VIP 24 and BTC Contract 73, analysts claim they are from the UK, Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong and work for MPIS Investment Co. Ltd. . to provide website details and checks are not possible. They don’t even share their respective companies’ social media pages.
The curious case of non-compliance: Interestingly, there is no provision for KYC / eKYC and no legal / legally valid contract is signed between the parties involved prior to the investments so that Indian agencies can consider the same as it is. necessary. This seriously violates the law of the land and raises questions about operational procedures. Across all of these groups, analysts appear to represent foreign companies such as UK or Hong Kong based companies and ask people to invest in platforms that are not based in India or have no presence here. .
The consent is missing: More importantly, many users told Inc42 that they were added to these groups without their consent. The big question here is how can independent people / groups access other people’s cell phone numbers on such a massive scale.
One of the users who raised multiple questions during group interactions said on a social question and answer platform Quora that the group administrator had banned him from posting comments. The person was then removed from the group. In other cases, entire groups are slowly killed / deactivated. Then these analysts open yet another WhatsApp group but are careful not to select users who ask too many troubling questions.
Do we interact with bots: The identical language and response patterns in these groups make people wonder if these are mostly robots controlled by a few humans. Most of the group assistants are women (according to their names). But I was also part of a group called BTC Contracts VIP 24, where the assistant was a man. For some reason, the analyst kept referring to the assistant as “her” and “her”, raising doubts as to whether they were both bots or the only humans to manage multiple. WhatsApp groups.
Will these crypto scams impact the future of the currency in India?
Fast growing crypto scams are one of the main reasons why the Indian government and the Reserve Bank of India keep issuing numerous notifications regarding crypto investments. He also delayed the crypto regulation bill.
Speaking at the Sydney Dialogues on November 18 this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi once again alerted people.
âTake cryptocurrency or bitcoin, for example. It is important that all democratic nations work together on this issue and make sure that this does not fall into the wrong hands, which can spoil our young people, âhe said. noted.
While the government has yet to set clear rules on cryptocurrencies, the general lack of knowledge about crypto markets and investments has been risky for retail investors who have embraced this new asset class. only for high yields in record time. It is therefore essential to make sure that all the safeguards are in place to protect your money. People should check if these platforms have their offices in India, comply with the country’s rules and regulations, and maintain transparency.
Of course, like any other asset class, investing in crypto involves market risk, but getting scammed mostly happens due to a lack of knowledge and caution.
Think of the GainBitcoin scam that thrived unbridled in 2015-2018 and managed to attract over 8,000 people by promising quick cash. After the racket broke, people from all over India and even the United States began to press charges against the founder of the platform, Amit Bhardwaj, and his associates / agents. Bhardwaj was arrested in 2018 (currently on bail), but investors have yet to get their money back.
Divyesh Darji, the main accused of Bitconnect racketeering, also took advantage of this lack of notoriety, and many people have invested in it without looking closely at the platform. The size of these scams are said to vary between $ 8.5 billion and $ 20 billion.
Even when the price of bitcoin was $ 5,000 in 2018, down from $ 20,000 in November 2017, these suspected fraudsters could cheat more than 10,000 people. Now that bitcoin has hit a record high above $ 69,000, the number of Indian investors has passed 15 million, and investments through major cryptocurrency exchanges hover around INR 6 Lakh Cr, scammers will be working overtime to fool people.
Even in the absence of crypto regulations in India, investigative agencies across the country should take note of what is happening in certain WhatsApp groups. Until then, caution should be the order of the day if you want to take advantage of these digital assets.