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10 Things to Know About Cryptocurrency and Related Scams

Consumers reported losing $1.4 billion in 2022 to bogus investments and other schemes involving crypto

spinner image Cryptocurrency scams are on the rise.
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The roller-coaster ride for digital currency investors has been wild, with news reports of both cryptocurrency millionaires and dramatic failures, including the 2022 collapse of the crypto exchange FTX. It is possible to make money through cryptocurrencies — which include bitcoin, ethereum, cardano and many more. The problem: Some cryptocurrency investments are phonier than $3 bills. And people who invest their hard-earned dollars in these schemes are often left empty-handed.

Staggering losses  

Cryptocurrency fraud has taken a quantum leap in the past year, with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently warning consumers that “crypto investing comes with lots of risks, including scams.” Nearly 53,000 people reported losing more than $1.4 billion in crypto to scams in 2022.

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Here are 10 things to know about cryptocurrency and related scams.

1. Some crypto criminals will impersonate celebrities. Con artists posing online as billionaires or other big names promise to multiply your investment in crypto but instead pocket what you send. They also might plant rumors that a certain bigwig is investing in a certain currency, in order to drive up the price. Then they’ll sell for a profit.

2. Others pretend to be from government agencies. Many victims reported loading cash into a bitcoin ATM (a kiosk lets you buy and sometimes also sell bitcoin) to pay crooks claiming to be from the Social Security Administration. Its Office of Inspector General recently issued a warning about these government impostor scams.

3. Fraud perpetrators often find victims through social media. They may begin with offers of investment tips or secrets on Facebook, LinkedIn or online message boards that lead people to bogus websites touting what appear to be chances to invest in popular cryptocurrencies.

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4. Bogus crypto-investment websites can be very sophisticated. Scammers build sleek-looking sites, full of fake testimonials and cryptocurrency jargon, and even may make it appear that your investment is growing. But consumers who have invested on these fake platforms have reported that when they’ve tried to withdraw the purported profits, they are told to send even more crypto — and end up getting nothing back.

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5. Romance scammers lurk behind many crypto schemes. Many victims said they thought they were in a long-distance relationship when their new love started chatting about a hot crypto opportunity he or she had acted on. About 34 percent of the staggering $1.3 billion people reported losing in romance scams in 2022 was sent in cryptocurrency.  

6. There’s no reason you should be required to pay for anything using crypto. “If a caller, love interest, organization or anyone else insists on dealing in cryptocurrency, you can bet it’s a scam,” the FTC says.

Cryptocurrency Safety

7. Cryptocurrencies can be legitimate investments. Investors make money by selling their cryptocurrency for more than they paid. But there’s no guarantee its value will go up; its value is based entirely on supply and demand.

8. Younger adults experience these scams more than older adults. Consumers ages 20 to 49 were more than three times as likely as older people to report losing money to a crypto investment scam in 2021, according to the FTC.

9. Some crypto scams are pyramid schemes. They’ll use new investors’ money to pay old investors, making it seem as though their investments are paying off. Four founders of a supposed cryptocurrency investment platform called Forsage were recently indicted in Portland, Oregon, and charged with running it as a pyramid scheme; they took in $340 million from people around the world, while promoting Forsage on social media as a legitimate, low-risk investment opportunity.

10.  If you’re a victim of any scam, report it to police. If they resist taking your report, persist so you have a record on the loss. Also report it to the FTC, at And to learn more, check out its additional guidance at

Katherine Skiba covers scams and fraud for AARP. Previously she was a reporter with the Chicago Tribune, U.S. News & World Report, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. She was a recipient of Harvard University’s Nieman Fellowship and is the author of the book Sister in the Band of Brothers: Embedded With the 101st Airborne in Iraq.

Christina Ianzito is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist who joined AARP in 2010. She’s the travel and books editor for and AARP The Magazine, and also edits and writes health, entertainment and other stories for She received a 2020 Lowell Thomas Award for travel writing.