Case Study of a Typical Instagram Crypto Scammer

Whilst on instagram, catching up on some Love Island gossip, I stumbled across a number of comments with “testimonials” about how much money people had made from crypto investing and all tagging the same lady, sharon_mentorship. I took a look at her profile and saw that she’s got an impressive 55.8k followers and claims to be a forex mentor, wealth coach and a crypto expert. At this point there’s a number of red flags which tell me she’s most likely a scammer:

  • A flurry of comments advocating for her services on unrelated posts, often those which are flaunting wealth and so likely have some green eyed viewers
  • Bold claims about being a crypto expert
  • Profile images which look like they’re being copy and pasted from someone else’s account as they’re unrelated to the caption or profile purpose

I decided to pop Sharon a message and see if she wanted to help me become a crypto millionaire…

The first question I always ask to check whether someone is a scammer is “will the profits be guaranteed?” . If they answer “yes” then they’re a scammer — pure and simple. You CANNOT promise profits in crypto just like you can’t in the stock market or with any other financial product.

Sure enough though, Sharon looked to assure me that profits are guaranteed after 7 days — what was even more amazing is that she could even promise returns if the crypto prices were crashing because “falling crypto doesn’t make your profits to fall”.

Well that’s a new take of crypto trading! 🙃

The “investment packages” were very classic of these types of scams, however I was surprised at the minimum package value being $500. Usually I’ve seen these types of scams start down at the $100 price point as this can be more persuasive for new investors so this is a high scam price tag.

I then decided to turn things up a notch and test Sharon’s moral compass even further. She seems happy enough to try and scam me out of my savings but let’s see if she’s willing to scam me whatever the cost…

I came up with a fictitious story about what I’d use my savings for to see if she’d be willing to take my money even if she knew it was going to fund some cancer treatment. She didn’t miss a beat and doubled down on this being a guaranteed return. Once again a reminder of how ruthless these scammers can be!

Before pushing forward with my fake investment I wanted to see whether Sharon would be happy to share some of her crypto expertise with me so I started asking a few questions about how she was going to generate her crypto profits for me. As expected she was illusive with her answers and didn’t give me any explanation as to how she’s found a way to generate those guaranteed profits even in a bear market. She also seemed to be growing impatient with my stalling and kept pushing me to move forward with making the investment.

She then advised me to buy $1,500 bitcoin and send it over to her so that I could start making money. She provided the following Bitcoin address:

33zmVtRR2VTaDnofLZxvMFo3nX1wcGsCA2

which when screened using Elliptic’s powerful compliance tools I can see if the Nigerian crypto wallet Busha: https://www.busha.co/ . When I pushed her with a fake narrative that my exchange had halted the withdrawal as it needed some proof that this wasn’t an unhosted wallet things got a little more fun as then I started scamming her!

First she asked for my to send a screenshot of my wallet so she could check I’d bought the bitcoin correctly — so cue me googling for some screenshots of Coinbase’s balance screen and a few minutes on Google Slides to doctor up a fake balance screenshot:

Sharon was convinced and now seemed keener than ever to get her hands on that money! But I wanted to see if she’d admit to using Busha or would lie and say the funds were going to some kind of investment platform — I also wanted to waste her time because the more time she was chatting with me, the less time she had to con someone who didn’t realise she was a scammer! I told her that Coinbase has halted my withdrawal and had emailed to say that they needed proof that the address wasn’t an unhosted wallet. She initially pushed back and told me to tell them that it was hosted at “Blockchain” when I asked her if this was an exchange she got a little sassy and said “Don’t you know a Blockchain wallet?” — hardly the tone for a mentor! I then asked what exchange it was hosted by and she said “USD exchange” which gave me a nice lol.

Then I had to put my editing skills to use again as she asked me to send through a screenshot of the email so she could tell me what to say. A few minuted later and I sent her through this…

Some wonderful editing skills if I do say so myself! 🤣

I was then advised to open up the chatbot and tell them “the wallet is a Blockchain wallet” to help settle the matter. Unfortunately my (fake) Coinbase support assistant didn’t buy this and pushed back for more information. I then had a brilliant 3-way conversation between Sharon (who was getting more and more frustrated at the situation), my imaginary Coinbase support office Miguel and poor me in the middle just trying to get her my investment money 🤷. After Sharon wonderfully exclaimed “They don’t know what they are doing”, she advised me to switch to Luno or Kraken in order to progress with the investment. However luckily Miguel offered that she could just “send a screenshot of the address in the blockchain wallet” and then the money could be processed — this seemed to stump Sharon and I didn’t hear back from her for two whole days until she finally advised that I withdraw the bitcoins to my bank account ( 🤔) and then retry sending through Luno. It felt like we were at a bit of an impasse so I finally asked Sharon why she didn’t just send me a screenshot of her account with Busha and what circumstances in her life had led her to be scamming people.

Unsurprisingly I didn’t hear back from her. I reported the account to Instagram — probably to be filed into a mountain of reports they never look into — and that ended my latest experience of trying to scam a scammer.

When I checked out this address on a block explorer I sadly saw that there had been 6 incoming transactions to this address which means potentially 6 victims of the scam so far. Although Sharon looks to have increased her package prices for me as she’s received just over $1,000 in total so a limited haul from her illicit activities.

https://www.blockchain.com/btc/address/ 33zmVtRR2VTaDnofLZxvMFo3nX1wcGsCA2

With enough evidence that Sharon is a scammer, this information can be loaded into Elliptic’s tools and her profile reported to instagram. This will hopefully help prevent others from withdrawing crypto funds to her address and being scammed. However scam typologies like this are similar to playing wack-a-mole; Sharon can just create a new instagram profile, generate a new address with Busha or open an account on a new exchange and then look to find her next mark. This is why it’s so important that newcomers to crypto are educated about making safe investments with legitimate platforms, and that crypto businesses are using compliance tools to help block transactions to and from scammers.

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.

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