You Don’t Need a Stranger’s Help to Buy Crypto

It’s hard not to think about: if you had bought $50 worth of Bitcoin back when it was trading at $0.08, and managed to not sell it, not have it stolen, and keep track of the hard drive or other device your coins were stored on for the last 11 years or so, you would have…well, a whole lot of money if you sold it today. Millions of dollars.

This makes the idea of “investing” in other potentially up-and-coming cryptocurrencies (i.e., speculating) extremely tempting. And if you can truly afford to lose the money (by which I mean this: if literally throwing the amount of cash you are using to purchase cryptocurrency into a hole would not affect your financial wellbeing in any way whatsoever), there really isn’t anything stopping you. I’m not going to tell you to do it, or not to do it.

However, if you decide to go for it, you should know that crypto scams are rampant.

For the most part, cryptocurrency has gone mainstream. It’s still unregulated and not backed by anything or anyone, but at the same time you can now purchase coins through apps like PayPal, investment platforms like Robinhood, or dedicated crypto trading apps such as Coinbase (this is not an endorsement of any of the above, by the way). It’s a do-it-yourself kind of thing.

This means you don’t need anyone’s help getting into cryptocurrency. Anybody approaching you on the internet with an “investment opportunity” (for anything, but we’re talking about crypto today), or offering “help” getting into trading, has only one goal in mind: to steal money from you.

Some of these schemes are simple “take the money and run” deals, but some are more complex. They will take your initial investment, then show you a website that allegedly shows your money magically growing. You only transferred $1,000 (via Cashapp or some other P2P payment app) to this dude and look!—you’re already up to $24,000 in a few weeks!

Now try to withdraw your “earnings.” That’s when the runaround begins. They’ll tell you that you can’t take it out just yet, or to withdraw those funds, you have to add more cash to the “account” first. Maybe a few thousand this time? After all, you’ve already earned much more than that, and the gains aren’t stopping. It’s like magic!

The truth is, there never was an account. The scammer simply took your money, showed you a fake website with fake numbers to encourage you to “invest” even more, and then tried to get still more when you inquired about withdrawing it.

There are also “money mule” schemes involving crypto, which start with a stranger asking for your help with this whole “Bitcoin thing” they don’t quite understand but want to get into. They’ll send you some money through Venmo or Cashapp, ask you to purchase Bitcoin or another coin, tell you to keep a little for yourself, then hand over the crypto wallet information. What you’ve just done is volunteer to be the only traceable link in a money laundering operation.

If you are truly interested in cryptocurrency, if you’ve read up on the risks, if you have said “yes, I am doing this,” if your financial situation is such that you could watch that $20 or $50 or $50,000 catch fire and burn away to ashes in front of your eyes without shedding a single tear, then have fun out there, best of luck, don’t accept help from strangers, and don’t believe anyone asking for your assistance. If you’re going to lose your money on an extraordinarily risky investment, do it the old-fashioned way and throw it out the window yourself. Don’t let some scammer take it from you.