Cryptocurrency scams involving fake Elon Musks have cost people a lot of real money. The Federal Trade Commission says crypto scams have surged along with the value of the digital currencies. The FTC says that between October and March, it received more than 7,000 complaints about scams involving Bitcoin and other digital currencies, with the victims losing a total of more than $80 million. At least $2 million was lost to fraudsters who impersonated the Tesla CEO, who has become a very influential figure in the crypto world in recent months, the New York Times reports. The FTC says fraudsters have also been finding victims on online dating platforms.
In a typical fake Musk scam, an impersonator with a very similar social media profile will claim there is a Tesla "giveaway" that will immediately double any amount of cryptocurrency that users send in. Those who fall for it send in often sizable amounts before realizing they have been scammed. Earlier this year, a German man lost 10 Bitcoin—the equivalent of more than $1 million at the time—to a Musk scam, the BBC reports. The criminals had been using a stolen account with Twitter's blue "verified" tick. Joseph A. Grundfest, a professor of law and business at Stanford, tells the Times that it is practically impossible for victims of crypto scams to get their money back. "Why crypto? It's very simple. It’s very hard to trace," he says. (Bitcoin prices fell after an announcement from Musk last week.)