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Criminals Taking Advantage Of Booming Cryptocurrency Trend

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Trading cryptocurrency has exploded in popularity, but criminals are taking advantage of the trend. The FBI says Americans lost about a billion dollars in crypto scams last year.

CBS News correspondent Meghan Schiller spoke with one victim who was ripped off by a con artist posing as one of her friends.

It all started when a message popped up on Instagram.

"I was like its 200 bucks, and that is a lot of money, but at the same time, like a little part of my brain was like, 'Oh my god, if this happens it's going to be awesome,'" said Natasha Reyna.

Reyna said a friend asked her to use Cash App and buy just $200 in cryptocurrency. For the money she'd see a huge return fast.

"So, I'm like I could pay my bills, my car off," she said.

The Better Business Bureau says it's a scam that's tripled in popularity.

Cybercriminals hack into an unsuspecting person's account and target their friends because the trust is already there.

Reyna said the person even gave her a link to watch her money start to grow, but then came a red flag.

Reyna explained, "$4,700… I was like now gimme it, you know, like I want to withdraw this, and they were like no, you have to reinvest $1,500."

She stopped there and called the BBB.

"Cryptocurrency scams were identified as the second riskiest scam last year, a significant increase from the seven spot the year prior," said Caitlin Driscoll with the Better Business Bureau.

Reyna feels lucky to only be out 200, but won't invest again without doing her research.

"It could either like be really good or really bad. If you are going to that, you should really educate yourself," said Reyna.

The Better Business Bureau said most victims lose about $1,200.

If you want to invest in legitimate, crypto experts say only download apps from your Google Play or Apple App Stores.

And don't just click the links that pop up during a routine Google search because they could lead you down the wrong path as well.

The FBI says to avoid crypto scams:

–Double and triple-check website urls and all hyperlinks

–Never send crypto payments to people you meet online

–Never trust anyone who asks for direct payments or offers investment opportunities

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