Author : Kate Yong
There is an indisputable growth in the popularity of Bitcoin especially with its rapidly rising price within the year of 2017 from US$1083.24 in February to US$19,343.04 by December. This rise is alongside many other cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum, Litecoin, Dash, Monero, Zcash, and many more with Bitcoin leading the pack. Cryptocurrencies exist in virtual world powered by the blockchain technology and features a decentralized, peer-to-peer network resistant to central authority control such as by governments. And with this, scammers also spot an amazing opportunity here, as by demanding payments in cryptocurrencies, once paid out it virtually becomes an irreversible process.
Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has just issued a warning to the public a few days ago about scammers requesting for payments in Bitcoin with more than AUD$50,000 being paid for already in fake tax debts. According to ATO, scammers started pretending to be ATO agents back in late 2017. This is almost an inevitable development given the many merits of cryptocurrency in terms of value and freedom from interference.
Assistant Commissioner from ATO, Kath Anderson advises taxpayers to remain vigilant and to carefully guard their personal information always. If a phone call came about unexpectedly and the caller becomes rude with threats for police or legal actions over the settlement of tax debts, hang up. Exercise caution with the way personal information are stored as scammers could easily impersonate another person with details such as full name, passport details, bank account numbers, and any passwords. The same goes to information being shared on social medial platforms.
Scammers are getting increasingly creative and even going as far as pretending to be Elon Musk and Donald Trump on Twitter promising returns on Ethereum being sent to their accounts that never happened. Yet an even bigger scam would be the fake Giza Device ICO that successfully raised US$2 million in cryptocurrencies in a short period from its ICO launch in January to its disappearance the following month in February. The ICO was for the supposed development of a sophisticated secure storage device. Social media profiles available online were copied to create fake LinkedIn profiles and Twitter accounts were created to add legitimacy for the startup. When warning signs start appearing, it was already too late for investors to recoup their losses.
It is imperative to realize that there is still a limited amount of guidelines available on cryptocurrencies and its usage. With the limited guidelines and governance along with the anonymity and irreversibility offered by cryptocurrencies, scammers will find many loopholes in the current system to scam the unaware users.