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South Bay mother swindled out of thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency scam

A Chula Vista single mother who is fighting cancer has a warning about cryptocurrency scams.

CHULA VISTA, Calif. — A single South Bay mother who is fighting cancer said she started investing in cryptocurrency in 2018 to save for her children. On Friday, she said she lost it all to a popular scam YouTube.

“$42,399.22,” said Tuba Kazan.

The Chula Vista mother said she started investing in cryptocurrency to help save for a house, support her kids and now treat her cancer.

“What I saved, and when I worked hard, I tossed it away,” said Kazan through tears.

On Friday morning, along with millions of other viewers, she watched what she thought was a live stream with the co-founder of cryptocurrency Ethereum which directed investors to a site to help Ethereum go global and sent 10 Ethereum cryptos to an account.

“I thought it is a good opportunity, because it looks legit. It was coming through YouTube, it was an official account,” said Kazan.

In 15 minutes she realized she would never get it back.

“That was my life savings,” said Kazan. “I’m usually a very alert person. You know, I know, if a phone call comes in and it's scammers I know not to send money out.”

She is not alone. The Federal Trade Commission reports from October 2020 to March 2021, 7,000 Americans were duped in cryptocurrency scams adding up to $80 million, which is a 1,000% increase from the previous year.

Several scams are happening including fake ads that promise to triple your investment, con artists also send e-mails posing as celebrities such as crypto investor Elon Musk.

The problem is cryptocurrency isn't backed by the government so there are no legal protections.

Even though Kazan won't get her money back, she reported the scam to YouTube, the Chula Vista Police Department who said it's under investigation, and she also reported it to the FBI.

“It's awful. But I don't want people to get hurt,” said Kazan.

The single mother said its hurts because she was diagnosed with a deadly form of leukemia and given 20 months to live and that money was for her children.

“I just wanted to make sure that my kids are going to be safe. If anything happens and I can't forgive myself for that,” said Kazan.

Here are three things you do to protect your cryptocurrency account: use a strong password, turn on two-factor authentication and create a separate e-mail. The FTC provided several resources including how to report cryptocurrency fraud.

YouTube’s only response was asking for the link to the site Kazan watched but did not comment on the incident or how it’s addressing cryptocurrency scams on its platform.  

The FBI was not available for an interview but in an e-mail from its Public Affairs Department wrote, “In recent years, the FBI has seen a significant increase in the number of cases we investigate that have a tie to cryptocurrencies, but we cannot comment on how many investigations we conduct across the Bureau.”

They sent these tips to protect yourself:

1. Do not send payment to someone you have only spoken to online, even if you believe you have established a relationship with the individual.

2. Do not follow instructions from someone you have never met to scan a QR code and send payment via a physical cryptocurrency ATM.

3. Do not respond to a caller, who claims to be a representative of a company, where you are an account holder, and who requests personal information or demands cryptocurrency. Contact the number listed on your card or the entity directly for verification.

4. Do not respond to a caller from an unknown telephone number, who identifies as a person you know and requests cryptocurrency.

5. Practice caution when an entity states they can only accept cryptocurrency and identifies as the government, law enforcement, a legal office, or a utility company. These entities will likely not instruct you to wire funds, send checks, send money overseas, or make deposits into unknown individuals’ accounts.

6. Avoid cryptocurrency ATMs advertising anonymity and only requiring a phone number or e-mail. These cryptocurrency ATMs may be non-compliant with US federal regulations and may facilitate money laundering. Instructions to use cryptocurrency ATMs with these specific characteristics are a significant indicator of fraud.

7. If you are using a cryptocurrency ATM and the ATM operator calls you to explain that your transactions are consistent with fraud and advises you to stop sending money, you should stop or cancel the transaction.

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