The FBI Says All Americans Must Take These Precautions in Urgent New Warning

There are three major steps you can take to keep yourself protected.

When the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issues a warning, you need to pay attention. Whether the agency is alerting you about a danger to public safety or a criminal threat, these warnings often have serious implications. Now, the FBI wants Americans to be aware of a new scam, which the agency said has already led to 244 people being victimized. Read on to find out what the FBI needs you to be aware of, and what precautions you should be taking.

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The FBI has been vigilant in monitoring ongoing scams.

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Fraudsters are constantly devising new plans to steal from victims, often targeting older adults in different "elder fraud" schemes. Former director of the FBI and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) William Webster spoke in a video public service announcement in May, warning older Americans about these financial fraud schemes, which he himself was a victim of.

But con artists don't limit their targets to older adults, as they are also capitalizing on the summer travel season. On July 12, the FBI Boston Division issued a press release due to a recent spike in rental and real estate scams, particularly as home and rent prices soar. The agency also spoke out about a dangerous LinkedIn scheme, according to reporting by CNBC. Sean Ragan, the FBI's special agent in charge of the San Francisco and Sacramento, California, field offices, told the outlet that scammers were using the networking platform to try and trick users into investing in cryptocurrency scams.

Now, the FBI has spoken out about another cryptocurrency scam, which could put investors, in particular, at risk.

Cybercriminals have found a new way to trick victims.

cybercriminal on computer
RapidEye / iStock

In a warning announcement on July 18, the FBI stated that cybercriminals are creating fake cryptocurrency investment apps in order to defraud Americans. The FBI specifically called attention to financial institutions and investors, who are being actively targeted. Cryptocurrency, or "crypto," is a form of digital money that is encrypted, and many people choose to invest in crypto instead of stocks and bonds, Forbes reported.

"The FBI has observed cyber criminals contacting US investors, fraudulently claiming to offer legitimate cryptocurrency investment services, and convincing investors to download fraudulent mobile apps, which the cyber criminals have used with increasing success over time to defraud the investors of their cryptocurrency," the warning states.

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Americans have already lost huge sums of money.

woman looking concerned at computer
fizkes / iStock

Financial institutions have developed mobile apps for users to monitor and increase their investments, the FBI said, but cybercriminals have noticed this trend and "seek to take advantage." According to the warning, fraudsters create fake apps using the names and logos of legitimate apps to make the scam more convincing, even going so far as to create bogus websites.

The FBI outlined different ruses, all of which instruct victims to download a fake app and deposit cryptocurrency into a virtual "wallet." When victims try to withdraw funds, however, they are told they need to "pay taxes on their investments," but remain unable to make a withdrawal, even after doing so. Another scheme told a victim that they had enrolled in a program that required a $900,000 balance, which they did not consent to. Upon trying to cancel the subscription, scammers told the victim they had to deposit the funds or have all assets frozen.

Unfortunately, many Americans have already fallen victim to these schemes. A total of 244 victims have been identified, with losses totaling approximately $42.7 million, the FBI said. Since the beginning of 2021, over 46,000 Americans have reported losses from crypto scams that total over $1 billion, CNET reported.

The FBI recommends taking three major precautions.

looking at cryptocurrency on phone
tdub303 / iStock

Financial institutions have been instructed to be proactive and warn customers about these scams, also letting them know if they offer cryptocurrency services or a mobile application.

But you can take steps to protect yourself from these kinds of scams, and if you're looking to invest, the FBI asks that you proceed carefully. Be particularly mindful if someone you haven't met in person asks you to download an investment application. Make sure you can verify who they are before you give them any personal information about yourself or take investment advice from them.

Additionally, check to see if the app in question is legitimate, the agency says. You can do this by confirming that the company offering the app really exists "and ensuring any financial disclosures or documents are tailored to the app's purpose and the proposed finance activity."

Lastly, any apps that have limited or broken functionality should be treated carefully. And if you do fall victim to one of these scams, you should contact the FBI through the Internet Crime Complaint Center or through your local FBI field office.

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