New York Daily News


From crypto to snake oil to mortgage schemes, it’s grift city


Last year, MTA worker Fritzie Cassis was under water on her mortgage and looking for some financial relief. The pandemic had been difficult and she was behind on her payments.

That’s when a friend told her about a cryptocurr­ency investment that promised to turn $1,000 into $3,000 in 90 days.

“I needed to make some money real quick,” she said. So she bit.

Cassis sunk a grand into the blockchain scheme hoping that this would solve her financial woes. But when she went to make a withdrawal, the company wouldn’t let her.

“They were, like, ‘Oh, no, that’s just to start the initial investment. You need to send another $1,000,’ ” she told the Daily News. ‘So I put $3,000 in and then every day I would see what it made. It was just building and building.”

After some time she again went to withdraw some of the funds, and again the company wouldn’t let her.

“I’m contacting them and they’re giving me the runaround. I’m trying to call the number that they sent. I’m not getting anybody. I’m not getting any responses back.”

When she did hear back, she said they told her that she need to sink still more of her money into the crypto.

Unfortunat­ely, Cassis is not alone. The number of Metro New York Better Business Bureau complaints of cryptocurr­ency scams has tripled since 2019, according to Clare Rosenzweig, president and CEO of the watchdog group.

Cryptocurr­ency is unregulate­d and losses from investment­s in Bitcoin or Ether can evaporate without any government protection.

“Once you put your money in, you can’t reverse the transactio­n — very attractive to scammers,” she said. “If you get a social media message or an email from a ‘friend’ telling you about … guaranteed returns, we should know that there are no guaranteed returns and go call your friend because chances are, it’s not your friend, it’s a hacker.”

Even with the spike in blockchain scams over the past few years, it’s still not the most common type of ripoff, according to Rosenzweig’s group.

Online purchases make up about a third of the complaints that the Better Business Bureau got last year. These frauds usually involve paying for something that never arrives or does not match the specificat­ions of what you purchased.

For the first time since the group started gathering statistics, scam victims ages 18-24 have lost the most median dollar amount — $220, according to the BBB’s annual report.

Employment scams in which personal informatio­n is disclosed for a job that doesn’t exist or money is laid out for training that never happens is now the fastestgro­wing ripoff among that demographi­c. The average amount lost in that scheme rose from $900 to $1,500 from 2021.

Folks 65 and older are more susceptibl­e to home improvemen­t ripoffs, half of which cost more than $1,500.

Fraudsters still prefer targeting the elderly, who may not be as tech-savvy. This provides an opportunit­y for phishing scams, where personal and financial informatio­n may be stolen by hacker after the victim clicks on the wrong link.

Last year, more than 5 million consumers reported identity theft or fraud, according to Karen O’Connell, a staff lawyer in the Northeast Region office of the Federal Trade Commission.

More than 750,000 of those complaints involved impostor scams, such as the “Grandparen­t Scam” in which an impostor calls an elderly victim claiming a relative needs bail money, medical bill or attorneys fees for an emergency. O’Connell said that these schemes cost the public $2.7 billion last year.

“They often rely on an emotional response by the consumer to help a loved one or to avoid some financial or criminal penalties,” she said.

To avoid becoming a victim, the BBB and the FTC suggest doing online research of the companies you’re buying from. Avoid giving out personal informatio­n, like your Social Security number, credit card and bank account numbers or codes and even your age and date of birth.

Scammers have grown more sophistica­ted over the years, adapting to new financial schemes, like crypto as they develop.

Cassis said that her niece helped her look into the company before investing and it seemed legitimate.

She said that the company had a sophistica­ted website, which has since been taken down, they sent her paperwork and had a phone number to call. They used legitimate apps for money transfers.

Cassis said that she had to do a forbearanc­e plan for her mortgage.

“It’s like a brand new mortgage,” she said. “I have to start over.”

It’s a hard lesson to pass on.

“If it’s too good to be true or if they tell you that you can turn $1,000 into $3,000, more likely than not, it’s not real,” she said.

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