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Reproduced from FTC; Chart: Axios Visuals

The cryptocurrency hype is real. New numbers show how scammers are benefiting.

Driving the news: Reported losses tied to crypto scams spiked 1,000% in the past year, the Federal Trade Commission said Monday. That includes over $2 million that people have sent to Elon Musk impersonators. (Yes, really.)

Why it matters: Crypto trading has exploded alongside an unprecedented spike in retail investing. Online communities drive the activity, but they're also where investors are lured into scams.

By the numbers: Since October 2020, about 7,000 people have reported total losses of more than $80 million on crypto-related scams.

  • The median loss was $1,900.

Among the lines of attack are "Giveaways" that claim to be sponsored by celebs — like the Elon Musk ruse — that promise to multiply the crypto that a victim sends.

  • Online chat groups — and online dating— are where scammers appear friendly and share "tips" or ask people to invest in schemes.
  • Scammers also pose as exchanges like Coinbase, or as government officials from agencies like the Social Security Administration.

What's next: Government agencies are trying to understand the full scope of illicit activity in the largely unregulated cryptocurrency markets.

  • Binance, the world's largest crypto exchange, is being probed by the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service, Bloomberg reported.

The bottom line: Scammers are cashing in on the "cryptocurrency FOMO" that's gripped swaths of the country.

Go deeper

One-on-one with MoneyGram CEO Alex Holmes

Alex Holmes; Photo: MoneyGram

The pandemic’s acceleration of all things digital could not be more clear to MoneyGram CEO Alex Holmes.

Driving the news: Holmes oversees a global money transfer business that operates in 200 countries. The company's digital transactions skyrocketed 44% year over year in Q2 2021, on top of what it described as "astounding" 106% digital transaction growth in Q2 2020.

BitMEX agrees to pay $100 million to settle CFTC and FinCEN charges

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

BitMEX, a cryptocurrency derivatives exchange, has agreed to pay $100 million to settle charges by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network that it unlawfully operated in the United States.

Why it matters: U.S. regulators are cracking down on the cryptocurrency industry as new innovations like derivatives exchanges, "decentralized finance" protocols and others boom.

SoCalGas agrees to $1.8 billion settlement for 2015 gas blowout

An evacuee with a Save Porter Ranch sign outside Southern California Gas Company's Aliso Canyon gate in Porter Ranch in January 2016 as the gas leak continued. Photos: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Southern California Gas Company and its parent company announced Monday they've agreed to pay up to $1.8 billion in settlement claims over the 2015 Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility blowout.

Why it matters: Some 100,000 tons of methane, ethane and toxic chemicals poured into the air for 112 days, forcing over 8,000 families to evacuate from their Los Angeles-area homes and sickening many with headaches, nausea and nosebleeds, per the L.A. Times.

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