Cryptocurrency has revolutionized the world of investment, providing an alternative to traditional financial systems. However, with its rapid rise in popularity, it has become a breeding ground for scams and fraudulent schemes.
One such example is the iEarn Bot, a cryptocurrency trading app that has duped thousands of people, potentially making it one of the largest crypto scandals to date. Customers buying the bots were promised high returns through the company's artificial intelligence program, but many have lost their savings, with withdrawals being frozen or disappearing altogether.
The problem is not limited to one country or region, as individuals in Romania, Indonesia, Nigeria, Colombia, and beyond have all fallen victim to iEarn Bot. The company presents itself as a US-based entity with strong partnerships with reputable organizations like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Huawei, and Qualcomm. However, when the BBC fact-checked information on its website, it found that several details raised red flags, including that the site's named founder claimed to have never heard of the company.
Despite this, iEarn Bot managed to convince a significant number of investors through various means, including sponsorships by high-profile individuals such as Gabriel Garais, a leading IT expert in Romania. The company also relied heavily on pushing investors to recruit more people to join the app, which experts have likened to a Ponzi scheme.
Silvia Tabusca, a Romanian organized crime expert from the European Center for Legal Education and Research, has investigated iEarn Bot and found that it operates similarly to other scams. "At first, the app works very well," she says. "When they have enough investors and enough money invested in a specific country, they don't allow that country to withdraw any more - and they open other countries."
In Colombia, for example, Andres actively recruited people to join the app and still believes the company is legitimate. However, withdrawals were stopped in December, and people were told that their investments were being transformed into a new cryptocurrency called iBot. They were asked to be patient until March, when the new coin was expected to be launched officially, but many are still waiting to access their money.
The issue is not only limited to iEarn Bot. Law enforcement agencies around the world are warning about a growing number of cryptocurrency scams, and experts recommend that investors conduct due diligence before investing their money. One of the challenges of investigating such scams is identifying and attributing the illicit actors and tracing where the money goes.
John Wyman, chief of the FBI's new Virtual Assets Unit, says, "One of the challenges is to identify and attribute who the illicit actor is, where the value is going, and then being able to take investigative steps and law enforcement action."
As the world becomes increasingly reliant on digital systems, the prevalence of such scams is likely to grow. It is essential to educate oneself about the risks and benefits of investing in cryptocurrency and to be cautious when dealing with unknown entities.