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Long Island Man's Bitcoin In Limbo As Hackers Target Cryptocurrency Exchanges

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Hackers are now targeting cryptocurrency exchanges like Coinbase and leaving investors without access to their bitcoin.

As the interest in cryptocurrency continues to climb, the safety and security of investment apps are being called into question.

CBS2's Natalie Duddridge spoke to a Long Island man whose bitcoin is now in limbo.

"I do believe my account was hacked. It had to be," Frank Pinto said.

Pinto started investing in bitcoin in 2017.

He used an app called Coinbase, which is like a stock exchange for cryptocurrency.

A few months ago, he tried to log in and got an alert instead saying, "Sorry, account temporarily disabled. Please contact support."

He tried, but Coinbase has no phone support, so he emailed dozens of times. They finally responded saying: "You will receive a response from the customer complaints officer within 15 business days."

Pinto then got a call from someone claiming to be from Coinbase and allowed them remote access to his computer. He later learned it was hacker.

"So they were ... taking all these steps that you think are legitimate. At some point through that remote access, they said to me, 'You should log into your bank account since it's associated with your Coinbase account,'" Pinto said. "And that's when I hit panic mode and said, no, no, this is definitely a b.s. call."

But it was too late. Pinto says a hacker managed to drain hundreds of dollars from his regular bank account, which was eventually returned to him. But he still can't get access to his Coinbase account, which is frozen with more than $20,000.

Duddridge spoke to tech expert Ian Marlow, with FitechGelb.

"Is Coinbase and other crypto exchanges, are they safe to use?" she asked.

"I think the jury is obviously out on that. It's exciting ... Legal has to catch up to technology," Marlow said. "People then will start to look at situations like this and say regulation will become important."

Until then, Marlow says the onus is on consumers to understand the risks associated with investing in unregulated assets.

"Would you use Coinbase again after this?" Duddridge asked Pinto.

"I'm not comfortable with this now, so probably not," he said.

Since we can't call them, we emailed Coinbase and haven't received a response.

Their website says customers' "cash" is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, but Pinto is still waiting to see if he'll ever see his again.

Tech experts say never give anyone access to your passwords or information, and if a company calls you, always ask to call them back.

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