I Lost Crypto Assets To Investment Scams Twice. But I Bounced Back

Breach
7 min readJan 24, 2022

Into the Cryptoverse is a weekly Breach series that documents the stories of everyday people as they navigate the cryptoverse.

When did you decide to invest in crypto?

January 2017. A quick background: I was big on Ponzi and multi-level marketing schemes, and the consistent trend was that they all crashed. So when this stranger messaged me on Facebook in December 2016, asking me how much I knew about cryptocurrency, I thought it was another scam and told him I wasn’t interested. But he pressed on, and the conversation continued until the next month.

What was the scope of the conversation?

It was pretty much about how I was missing out on a life-changing opportunity. He was trying to convince me to take a look at bitcoin and its price progression over the years. He also promised that I’d be quite rich in a relatively short amount of time if I invested in it. I started to relax when I did some reading online and saw that bitcoin was legit — I understood that it was an asset that would appreciate over time. That did it for me.

In January 2017, I told him I was in. He gave me a walkthrough of how to buy bitcoin on Remitano, and I bought 0.1btc for about ₦60k ($105).

Was the plan to hold on to it?

No. The guy also sold me a dream of investing my asset in a platform and making big returns, which I thought was amazing. When I confirmed the purchase, he asked me to open an account on a different exchange and transfer my coins to the wallet. Afterwards, he asked me to send him a screenshot of a QR code on the account. I did all of this without asking questions. I was supposed to get some rewards in a few hours.

A few minutes after I sent him the info he asked for, I logged back into my account to find an empty wallet. I logged out and back in, and it was still the same. Then I checked the transaction history, and it said I had transferred all my assets to another wallet. I suspected that I had fallen victim to a scam but I was in denial until a friend confirmed it.

I’m sorry. How did the experience shape your opinions about crypto?

I decided that it wasn’t worth the trouble. In the months that followed, I shut down any bitcoin or crypto conversation even before they started. anyone that mentioned bitcoin. However, I changed my mind in December 2017.

Can I ask why?

A friend asked me to give bitcoin another chance. On my part, I had done more research and started to see the opportunities in cryptocurrencies and their potential effects on finances. Besides, I had a bad experience already, so I thought the chances of that happening again were low.

I bought ₦35k ($61) worth of bitcoin this time. Guess where I put it? A platform called Bitclub. It turned out to be another Ponzi scheme.

Wait, why did you invest in it in the first place?

The platform promised me 30% returns per annum paid monthly. I wanted to test the waters at first, so I invested ₦35k ($61). When I saw that it worked, I started to increase the money I put in it. I was also making extra money from their referral programme. Deep down, I knew it was a risk I should get out of as soon as possible. Sadly, I became greedy and created multiple accounts. I continued to put more money in until it crashed.

Man. When did you know something was wrong?

March or April 2018. I couldn’t log into the account anymore. The error message I got was “Site under maintenance.” I’m not sure how much I had in it at the time, but it should be close to ₦500k ($877). My problems weren’t over though.

What do you mean?

I had referred several people to sign up on the platform. Most of them knew the risks and understood that it wasn’t my fault. But some people didn’t. One of them lost about ₦800k ($1404) to the scheme. Coincidentally, she was a wife to an army officer. You know how these things go in Nigeria.

What happened?

They tracked me down to the city where I lived. One day, I got a call and the person on the other end asked me to turn myself in at a police station. When I got there, they brought out a file with details of my conversations with the woman I had referred. For some reason, they thought I was the owner of the platform and that if they held me for long enough, I would return the money.

After questioning me for hours, they started to understand how it worked — and that I was also a victim. I printed my conversations with the person who referred me and other people I had referred before they were convinced that it was a multi-level marketing scam, and I had nothing to do with it. Then they let me go.

That must have been a lot. Where was your head at?

I was done with Ponzi schemes and network marketing. I finally realised that they weren’t worth the little gains I made. Surprisingly, I was clear-headed enough to see the difference between owning a crypto asset and investing it in a shady platform. What happened was my fault, not crypto’s. I took the blame and moved on.

What did that mean for you?

I’m a risk-taker, and I had a better understanding of how cryptocurrencies were built to work. I started using my crypto wallet as a “savings account”, buying BTC or ETH with any spare money I had — the goal now was to hold them for as long as I could. Down the line, I added XRP to my portfolio. Nothing major happened until 2020.

Let me guess, a bull run?

Yes. Bitcoin hit an all-time high, and I was in luck. Another background: after I lost 0.1BTC to the first scam in 2017, a friend sympathised with me and transferred 0.02 BTC to the wallet address on Coinbase. But I moved on to Luno and didn’t keep track of the Coinbase wallet. I finally checked in 2020 and guess what? The BTC I had there was now worth ₦80k ($140). For context: it was only about ₦700 ($1.22) in 2017.

Fascinating.

The exponential increase did something to me, and I decided to be more intentional about investing in crypto. It also helped that there were more conversations about cryptocurrency, so it was easier to make smart decisions.

Nice. What happened after?

The usual. I bought and held more coins. At some point last year, I was big on the meme coins — especially Dogecoin and Shiba Inu — and it wasn’t a bad decision. I made over 100% returns on my Shiba investment. The point is that I’m mastering the basics of crypto investment — when to buy and when to sell.

What’s a trick that works for you every time?

Research. I can’t be 100% sure what will happen to an asset I intend to buy, but research can tell me what to expect. So I read projects’ whitepapers, figure out the utility base, the track record and market cap. Every asset I have in my portfolio now is there based on what I learned from researching. For example, I’m holding SAND and Mana because of the recent interest in the metaverse; XRP for its utility base, and I expect it to be one of the top assets soon. In addition, I suspect that Crypto.com native token — CRO — might be the next BNB, so I got in early. And there’s Solana, which I hold because of its similarities to ethereum.

Looks like some thought went into all this. I’m curious, how has your relationship with crypto evolved over the years?

I’ve gone from thinking crypto is a get-rich-quick scheme to taking my time to learn about it. It hurts a little that I had to lose some money to get here, but it’s worth it. I’ve bounced back, too. That said, there’s still a lot to learn, and I’m okay with it. Every new thing I learn is so exciting — it’s almost like I’m in university again.

Love it for you. What do you find annoying about crypto though?

The market volatility. I’ve found a simple workaround, so it’s not much of a problem for me. I hedge my investments against unpredictable changes in price by holding multiple assets.

That’s probably smart. Tell me your biggest crypto regret.

Haha. I’ve had a couple of those. But the one I think about the most is losing 0.1 BTC to that scam in 2017. Imagine how much that will be worth now. But it’s fine. Ponzi schemes would have ruined me if Crypto hadn’t given me another way out. And the thing is, I like where I’m am now.

  • Conversion rates adjusted for inflation.

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