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HomeinvestmentBay Area victims lost $33 million in online investment scams last year

Bay Area victims lost $33 million in online investment scams last year

Thirty-one Marin County residents lost a total of $33 million in online investment scams last year, according to a new FBI report on internet crimes.
The financial damage was higher than the $29 million lost by 156 San Francisco residents in 2023.
In the FBI’s San Francisco territory — which includes much of the Bay Area, the North Coast, Santa Cruz County, Monterey County and San Benito County — victims reported nearly $400 million in losses to online investment scams last year.
The agency said Santa Clara County had the most losses: $152 million from 446 reported victims. Other loss totals in the Bay Area last year included $57.5 million from 312 victims in Alameda County; $56.5 million from 221 victims in Contra Costa County; $51.7 million from 108 victims in San Mateo County; and $3.2 million from 42 victims in Sonoma County.
Nationwide, victims reported $4.5 billion in losses from online investment fraud, a 38% increase from the prior year.
The numbers are based on complaints filed with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Robert Tripp, the special agent in charge at the FBI’s San Francisco office, said a typical scam involves inducing a person to pay a criminal who promises a new, innovative product that will generate “amazing” returns. The promise could be a blend of fiction and a little fact, Tripp said.
After payment, the scammer would either fail to invest the victim’s money as promised, or would only invest a small part of the payment while pocketing the rest of the money.
“This isn’t a traditional investment of a listed company where the company will make projections about profits and maybe those projections will come true,” Tripp said. “The investment fraud schemes that we worry about — there is no good faith.”
The FBI also reported that Americans lost $3.94 billion in cryptocurrency investment fraud cases last year. Tripp said criminals prey on investors’ ignorance.
“Everybody has heard the word ‘cryptocurrency,’ and it’s a buzzword that 90-year-old senior citizens can throw around comfortably,” he said. “But when you start getting into the nitty-gritty of specific cryptocurrency, their backing in the block chain, projected rates of return in particular areas under certain conditions — nobody knows that. It’s just a black box that magically makes money.”
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The FBI also said that the Marin losses last year included $53,332 scammed from “phishing” victims. The agency describes phishing as messages sent by text, email or telephone that trick victims into disclosing personal information, financial information or login credentials.
People who believe they are victims of online financial schemes should contact the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, Tripp said. He said the agency monitors the website around the clock.
Tripp added that victims of scams that involved bank-to-bank wire transfers mighty be able to recover their money with the FBI’s help if they quickly file reports with the agency.

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