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Bitcoin dagbladetThe 7 Worst Bitcoin Scams | Digital Trends
So, where does the scam come in? Well, CB had leased out some space at a Rogers Data Centre for important server hardware, the sort of hardware you could use to hack into the exchange. My name is James Grant.
I need all your security codes. No one ever checked to see if the message had really been from Grant or asked for any kind of confirmation, or, you know, tried to contact Grant through professional channels. You can imagine how displeased investors were when they found out.
Bitcoin gold was a project designed to create a new form of cryptocurrency that also tapped into the Bitcoin name. That branding trick was a little shady, but nothing was particularly illegal. Then, expert scammers built a website called mybtgwallet. All they had to do was submit their private keys used to protect their cryptocurrency wallets! Even the creators of Bitcoin gold were roped into the scam and actually endorsed the website on its Twitter account before realizing it was all one big con.
While the realm of influencers and the validity of the products they are paid to endorse are often controversial, the fallout from the Centra scam was particularly damaging to the overall reputation of cryptocurrency.
You might recall that a couple of years ago, DJ Khalid and Floyd Mayweather made several paid endorsements of Centra ICO, which was promoted as a secure method of storing cryptocurrency like Etherium, Ripple, and Bitcoin. Unfortunately, neither Khalid nor Mayweather declared that these were paid endorsements for an ICO, as required by law.
Centra went from boom to bust in a matter of weeks, tarnishing the reputation of cryptocurrency and making the public even more skeptical. For any fans of mystery novels and police procedurals, the following may sound like a plot straight out of fiction. Following the death of the CEO, it was uncovered that the financial records for showed no evidence of any such fund existing and that QuadrigaCX itself was in dire financial straits.
In addition, one of the co-founders of QuadrigaCX may have been a convicted con artist going under a false identity. Allegations of money laundering have subsequently emerged, and it turns out the whole exchange was being run by just one developer. While the whole bizarre tale could easily fill an entire article itself, several class action lawsuits have been combined into a single committee comprised of several law firms, and monitors Ernst and Young have been court-appointed to manage any remaining assets.
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These are the best cheap MacBook deals for January They were shown photographs of her numerous degrees, and copies of Forbes magazine with her portrait on the front cover. The degrees are genuine. The Forbes cover isn't: it was actually an inside cover - a paid-for advertisement - from Forbes Bulgaria, but once the real cover was ripped off, it looked impressive.
But it seems it's not just the promise of riches that keeps people believing. She was entered into a Whatsapp group, with its own "leader" who disseminated information from the headquarters in Sofia. And McAdam's leader prepared her carefully for conversations with OneCoin sceptics. Even Google - 'Don't listen to Google! Prof Eileen Barker of the London School of Economics, who has spent years studying groups like the Moonies and Scientologists, says there are similarities between OneCoin and messianic millennium cults, where people believe they are part of something big that is going to change the world - and no matter what the evidence, once they've signed up, it's very hard for them to admit they are wrong.
You think, 'Wait a bit longer. Money might push people to invest in the first place, but the sense of belonging, of doing something, of achieving something, is why they stay, Barker says. In an ideal world, regulators would take action to protect consumers from scams like OneCoin.
But the authorities all over the world have been slow to react, partly because the whole area of cryptocurrencies is relatively new. Less than a year later, the warning was removed from the website. Game over. The fact that OneCoin was operating internationally also created difficulties for the authorities.
Such explanations don't offer much comfort to those affected. She now runs Whatsapp support groups for OneCoin investors who realise they have been swindled. Where's the help? More folk are going to promote this. It's a green light for the OneCoin scammers to continue and extort more money from innocent people in the UK and nothing has been done about it. They don't care! The City of London Police told the BBC: "There was insufficient evidence to support criminal proceedings against individuals based in the UK, though the force has never specified that there had been no concerns surrounding OneCoin.
The force has provided assistance to foreign law enforcement partners in respect of their investigations concerning OneCoin personnel and will continue to do this.
If you believe you have been a victim of fraud in relation to OneCoin or you suspect someone of actively marketing OneCoin, please come forward and report it to Action Fraud online. Until this week, however, the OneCoin head office remained open for business - and people were continuing to promote the currency.
Today doors are locked. No lights visible through the windows. In the Ntangamo region of Uganda, not far from Rwandan border, most people make their living growing bananas, or sometimes cassava, sweet potato, beans or groundnut. He already had , shillings in savings, and to raise the rest he returned from the capital, Kampala, to his family home, took three goats raised by his younger brothers, and sold them.
Daniel is one of thousands of Ugandans who've bought into Dr Ruja's fake cryptocurrency - and the OneCoin financial documents leaked to the BBC reveal that as time went on, investors like him became increasingly important to OneCoin. In Europe, less money was invested in the first six months of compared to the same period in But in Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent, it was the other way round. As the money started drying up in Europe, promoters turned more and more to countries like Uganda.
Daniel took me and Georgia to meet Prudence, who first introduced him to OneCoin. They are still friends, even though both now realise it's a scam. Prudence is a nurse in a Kampala slum, who thought she could make more money selling OneCoin and set about recruiting new investors. A senior promoter gave her a nice car to impress customers, and instructed her to visit farmers when their crops were being harvested and they had money in their pocket. People in villages trust people from the city, Prudence tells us.
To buy the packages some sold their cattle, their land and even their houses - with disastrous consequences. Some are running because they got loans from a bank. Some are hiding. Some are divorced. If anyone asks Prudence when the investment is going to deliver the promised riches, she tells them to wait.
She can't bring herself to tell them the truth. I don't want those people I introduced into OneCoin to see me moving around. They can easily kill me. They thought I ate their money. But though she has stopped recruiting, many others haven't, and there are still plenty of interested buyers, she says. One of the main OneCoin offices in Kampala is attached to a church. There are videos of the minister, known as Bishop Fred, leading the congregation in call and response.
Bishop Fred, we learned, is now one of the country's top promoters of OneCoin, though he says it's no longer promoted during church services. As in other countries, OneCoin has spread here through networks of friends and families. Together with Daniel, Georgia and I travel south to meet his mother. She lives in a concrete house with a tin roof - five small rooms, a small television and a cooking area.
A towel covers the front door, and a few metres away is her land, where she grows her own food and sells anything left over at the local market. But when Daniel found out about OneCoin, it suddenly seemed like a much better alternative.
His mother had doubts, but he persuaded her to put the money into OneCoin instead. She had no computer or smartphone, to do her own research. She doesn't speak English either, so I'm shocked to discover, as we sit and talk, that Daniel has never actually told his mother that the money is lost. They keep postponing this. That I don't know what they're thinking. Maybe it's just a delay. Daniel's mother then tells us that when she first saw me and Georgia, she assumed it was a good sign - that perhaps it meant that her money was going to arrive at last.
She asks what news we have about OneCoin. Will she get her money back? He doesn't seem certain it's a good idea. Perhaps it would put him in an uncomfortable position. I don't want to be the person that breaks the news to Daniel's mother. Georgia suggests we tell Daniel's mother that we are journalists, and that we are investigating OneCoin because a lot of people aren't getting their money. If it doesn't happen, life is hard. When we started planning the Missing Cryptoqueen podcast in late , no-one really had a clue what happened to Dr Ruja after her disappearance.
It was only earlier this year that the US authorities revealed she'd flown to Athens on 25 October And even then, the question remained, where had she gone next? There were rumours of course - lots of them. It's also been suggested that there are powerful people who might protect her in her native Bulgaria - and that she could hide in plain sight because of plastic surgery that makes her unrecognisable.
I've even heard that she might be in London. Others told us she was dead - which does remain a possibility. This is clearly a question for a professional, which is why Georgia and I went to see private investigator Alan McLean. Finding people is his speciality, and there is one thing above all he says we should focus on.
That's the most important thing of all," he says. Find out who her friends were, what her lifestyle was like, her family. Another tip he gives us is to find out where she has been on her yacht. We should try to get the tracker off it, he says, and he doesn't appear to be joking.
I explain that this is probably beyond my abilities apart from being illegal. Then he says I should check what yachts were bought in Athens around the time she arrived there from Sofia.
A few weeks after our meeting Alan gets back in touch, with some amazing information. His colleagues - also private investigators - visited top-end restaurants in Athens armed with photos of Ruja, and in one of them several waiters claimed to clearly remember her dining there earlier this year.
When Georgia and I called them ourselves to check, they confirmed it. So it seems Ruja is still alive, and is able to visit a European capital without fearing arrest. Another lead comes our way when we pay a visit to a bizarre OneCoin beauty pageant in Bucharest. It's as glitzy as you would expect. Men are drinking champagne from the bottle, everyone is eyeing us in a way that makes us feel very uncomfortable. We soak up the atmosphere, cheer the British contestant, and then leave.
But later we hear that we might have been in the presence of Dr Ruja - that she was there, in the same room, right in front of our noses. Except now with plastic surgery, and so harder to spot. If it's true she was in these countries earlier this year, she probably has a fake identity. Even the most obscure entry or innocuous comment on a forum is usually saved somewhere, and with enough digging can be found.
You've heard of Google, but there are several other search engines that specialise in this. So we start unearthing previous addresses, known friends, old phone numbers, anything that could help us. We already knew that Dr Ruja spent some of her childhood in Schramberg, southern Germany. We had also visited the town of Waltenhofen in Bavaria, not far away, where she and her father bought a steelworks around a decade ago, an episode that led to her being tried for fraud.
She received a fine and a suspended sentence in October While in Waltenhofen, we learned that she had a German husband, a lawyer for the well-known firm, Linklaters. But we were still surprised when, during our internet searches, Frankfurt started appearing over and over again.
It wasn't a place we'd previously thought of looking. There were several old addresses in the Frankfurt area - ones she'd posted in forums many years ago, or were associated somehow with old phone numbers of hers.
Then we started looking at some old photos of Ruja, and spotted one friend who appeared with her all the way back to And that friend was visiting the richest neighbourhood in Frankfurt in summer this year. From a tiny fragment of a poster advertising a tennis tournament, an expert identified the park in which one photograph was taken. We also learned that Dr Ruja had a daughter in late , and that she remained very close to her.
The daughter, we were informed, might be in Frankfurt. This is also where Dr Ruja's husband - or perhaps ex-husband - lives and works. Armed with a microphone and several photographs of Dr Ruja, we headed off to Frankfurt and searched old addresses and gated neighbourhoods said to be the most expensive in Germany. A couple of people looked at the photographs and paused for a long time, raising our hopes - but then said they didn't recognise her. A postman thought he recognised the name, but couldn't be sure.
We called the lawyer who is or was married to her, and he didn't want to talk. Did we get close to her? Could she really be hiding out in the heart of the EU? We don't know. Frankfurt probably isn't the only place she goes - it might be one of several places, including perhaps Dubai and Russia.
Then a few days later we received a call from a trusted source we cannot identify. He told us we were right - Frankfurt is indeed where she spends much of her time. But we need to keep going, we needed to find the house. In court it was revealed that Ignatov signed a plea deal on 4 October, in which he pleaded guilty to several fraud charges. A court reporter was there to hear his testimony, and according to his account of the proceedings Ignatov appears to have implied that his sister had duped him with the same line the organisation put out to its investors - that OneCoin critics were "haters" who could not be believed.
She vanished, he said, because she was afraid that somebody close to her was going to give her up to the FBI. She had got hold of a "big passport", he said, and asked him to get her plane tickets to Vienna, then Athens. OneCoin has always denied wrongdoing. It added that the allegations made about it around the world were being challenged, stating: "Our partners, our customers and our lawyers are fighting successfully against this action around the globe and we are sure that the vision of a new system on the basis of a 'financial revolution' will be established.
Some action at the OneCoin HQ at last. Doors opened. A small beaten down van parked in front and was filled with various office equipment and supplies. Didn't seem to be the contents of the famous 3rd floor cash room : Looked as if the company is moving out, but who knows OneCoin was a familiar scam with a digital twist - a new and hugely successful take on the old pyramid scheme.
It represents the dark side of rapid technological change - the way that every new technology creates amazing new opportunities and possibilities for people who understand it, but also the chance to exploit the people who don't. Dr Ruja identified several of society's weak spots and exploited them.
She knew there would be enough people either desperate enough, or greedy enough, or confused enough to take a bet on OneCoin. She understood that truth and lies are getting harder to tell apart when there is so much contradictory information online. She spotted that society's defence against OneCoin - the law-makers, the police, and also us in the media would struggle to understand what was happening.
And, most frustratingly of all, she correctly guessed that by the time we realised it, she'd be gone, along with the money. But there was something very important these investors didn't know. Dr Ruja's genius was to take all of this and sell the idea to the masses. You told me it was a cryptocurrency company.
He didn't take the job. Jen McAdam's 'tycoon' package. Dr Ruja disappears. But when the day came, Dr Ruja - who was famously punctual - didn't show up.
MLM's most successful product. Here is how multi-level marketing works. He points out that he spent millions buying OneCoin, possibly more than anyone else. Following the money. Oliver describes this kind of dizzying arrangement as "improbably standard". Find out more. Inside 'the family'. Why have so many people continued to believe in OneCoin, despite all the evidence? The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.
View original tweet on Twitter. A Ugandan tragedy. I ask him why not. It's hard to say. I look at Daniel. Daniel translates, and his mother's reply comes back. Where are you, Dr Ruja? She would have known that we were looking for her, he added, and she would have laughed at us.