Crypto Fraudster Dupes Indian Citizens

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In Brief
  • Cryptocurrency remains largely a wild-west sector in India with respect to regulation

  • Enthusiasm around crypto in India is evident, despite its inherently risky nature

  • A woman was cheated out of Rs 25100 in a recent scam involving a fraudster impersonating a crypto expert

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Crypto fraudsters have run amok in India, dispossessing people of millions in rupees, and at times their entire life’s savings.

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In India, individuals are increasingly becoming victims of scams, like the most recent one, where a male impersonating a woman has claimed to be a crypto expert, offering to invest crypto, and even offered people an area of land on the moon. A woman was recently offered “good returns” if she invested Rs 45700 with a lady supposedly named Uska Abubakar. After the woman transferred Rs 25100 to the fraudster, she never received any returns and subsequently filed a complaint with the police on August 19, 2021. The police have arrested a young man named Akash Narayana, to whose account the plaintiff’s money was transferred. It is not clear whether the fraudster and the account holder are one and the same person.

Crypto is still largely unregulated in India

India remains largely unregulated when it comes to the crypto industry, yet it has proved popular amongst individuals aged 21 to 35 who live in large metropolitan areas, according to a recent study by Kantar. The individuals in this age group own some form of cryptocurrency. The most popular cryptocurrency is Bitcoin followed by Dogecoin, Ethereum, Binance, and Ripple. 

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The study recorded the results after interviewing 2000 people in major Indian cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Hyderabad. Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore led the pack with the most crypto interest, followed by Hyderabad and Pune. The majority interviewed are looking to understand crypto and determine whether it is worth the investment. Exchanges such as WazirX and Zebpay are among the exchanges Indians use. 

Crypto-related fraud is nothing new in India. People have sometimes been cheated out of their entire life savings in scams. During the 2017 crypto bubble, Umesh Verma started Pluto Exchange, offering a new coin, and India’s first mobile wallet. Verma opened a crypto exchange in 2017, promising monthly returns of 20%-30%, which attracted 43 businessmen to invest over $270000.

Incentives were offered to customers to bring in new customers, which led the Indian authorities to retrospectively classify it as a Ponzi scheme. Verma was arrested in early 2021. The police in the Indian state of Haranya also recently arrested four fraudsters in June 2021, who lured folks by claiming that they owned 1871 bitcoins in a wallet, which in reality belonged to Binance exchange.

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