A DEVASTATED couple lost £15,000 of savings in just minutes after crypto scammers duped them into handing over their Coinbase account details.
Loreta and Mindaugas from Horsham, Sussex, were lured in with a fake bonus offer from a sick scammer who appeared to work for the Coinbase platform – shortly before the site was listed as a public company.
The scammer tricked Mindaugas and told him he would be eligible for a cash bonus on the exchange if he bought initial Coinbase stock via the site.
Coinbase, recently valued at $99.6 billion, is a popular trading website used to buy and sell cryptocurrency, with more than 56 million users.
Rather than providing a £60 bonus as promised, the phishing scam duped the couple into sharing account details with the hackers.
In just nine minutes, the sick scammers had withdrawn £15,000 of the couple’s crypto savings.
“At first, we thought it might be some kind of mistake or a glitch,” Loreta said.
“But since their knowledge base had no option that covered any bugs or glitches, we decided to inform Coinbase that my husband’s account has been compromised. But all we got back was a password reset request.”
Following the first withdrawal of the crypto funds, the hackers tried their luck again by sharing a password reset for the Binance platform – where the couple also had funds secured.
Binance since been banned by the FCA from operating in the UK.
The scammers called Mindaugas again, claiming to be a Coinbase agent.
“He said ‘we see that you have an account at Binance and since Coinbase and Binance are sister companies’ – and that’s when I saw he was trying to dupe us,” Loreta explained.
“Next thing I hear, he’s telling us to prove our identity either by transferring £5,000 from our Binance account to Coinbase or by giving them our Binance authentication code so that they can transfer the missing £15,000 to my husband’s Binance account.”
Spotting suspicious activity, Mindaugas and Loreta declined the transaction and reported the scam to the police.
‘NOT VERY HOPEFUL’
They also contacted Coinbase for help but they’ve had no response.
“We’re still waiting for an answer. And since ‘only’ £15,000 was stolen, we’re not very hopeful that the police will do anything about it,” Loreta said.
“Right now, all we hope for is that Coinbase takes a hard look at their security procedures and improves them so that situations like ours don’t happen to others.”
The CyberNews research team opened an investigation into the scam after the couple contacted them for help.
Researchers discovered the cryptocurrency had been laundered through an elaborate network of wallets which effectively makes stolen funds “untraceable” and helps scammers to avoid being caught.
They managed to follow the stolen currency via a temporary holding wallet and multiple coins mixers, to a central Ether wallet and a crypto gambling site, where scammers have amassed millions of dollars from thousands of victims.
Edvardas Mikalauskas, senior researcher at CyberNews, said: “Unfortunately, hundreds, if not thousands of cases like Mindaugas’ occur every day.
“Due to the anonymous nature of the crypto market, very few scams that target ordinary people tend to come to the fore.
“Indeed, with phishing attacks becoming increasingly sophisticated, it’s getting harder to identify fake messages that look like they’ve come from a person or a brand you trust.
“Companies like Coinbase need to take responsibility for keeping customers as safe as they possibly can.
“They should implement strict controls in detecting malicious or anomalous activity and blocking it before the criminals have a chance to steal cryptocurrency.”
CyberNews told consumers to always preview URLs before clicking on links or buttons, be aware of any messages sent to your inbox, use unique passwords and multi-factor authentication for online accounts, and warned embedded links are a “major red flag”.
In other crypto news, a Bitcoin enthusiast who took his own life left behind crypto worth £245,000 on his old laptop – but the family can’t access it, his brother has claimed.
And an IT worker who lost a whopping £275 million in Bitcoin after tossing out his hard drive has planned a 12-month search of a landfill using X-ray scanning devices and specialist AI technology.
Cops have also seized nearly £180million in the largest-ever cryptocurrency raid in the UK, which was discovered as part of a major probe into money laundering.