The old adage about a fool and his money being easily parted overlooks the intelligent people who get conned and are too embarrassed to ever admit it. There are some incredibly sophisticated scams out there, and today we’re going to use our platform to warn readers about a scam that tried to come and roost in our own nest – the binary options scam.
It all started innocuously enough. Yesterday, someone we know chatted up one of our MBAs on LinkedIn. A lot of people engage with our content, so it’s not uncommon for any number of people to chat us up out of the blue for any number of reasons. The chat started with an email from LinkedIn that said Ted Jones, a Director at an Australian technology incubator, had sent us a message. So, we engaged in a chat with Ted on LinkedIn. (Names have been changed to protect the innocent.)
Chatting With Ted
We’ve known Ted for a while and had some conference calls with him before about his firm utilizing our content marketing offering. (Shameless plug: If you’re a startup with a great story and you don’t want to pay a PR firm thousands of dollars to send us emails, we can help.) The conversation seemed normal enough. Ted talked a bit about familiar topics. Nothing seemed amiss, and then Ted asked what we thought about cryptocurrencies. We were surprised he would ask that, but enough people ask that question. So, we told him. We advise everyone to avoid the stuff entirely, aside from perhaps a small punt on bitcoin as an alternative asset, something we’ve done ourselves.
Ted then went on to talk about how he was heavily invested in cryptocurrency at the moment which we found odd. His story then started to switch to how great the opportunity was and that it didn’t take much to get involved. To our trained ears, it was the equivalent of an overweight Albanian in an alley asking us if we knew how to play three-card Monte. “I know you’re a skeptic, but you need to trust me on this. You have to look at this opportunity,” said Ted. People tell us that all the time, so we said sure. That’s when Ted started talking about his developer friend. When we expressed some concerns about who he might be engaging with, he insisted vehemently that trust was not a problem. “Believe me,” he said. “I’ve worked with this man for decades and you have absolutely nothing to worry about.”
Passing to Jason
At this point in the conversation, it was still a pitch for an idea or product. We get these all the time. The red flags had gone off, but there was no reason not to hear the pitch. After all, Ted was potentially a future customer, and this was something he wanted to quickly let him know was absolute and total shite. Of that we had no doubts.
We agreed to speak with Ted’s partner, Jason, and see what his pitch was. Ted insisted we use WhatsApp to chat with Jason because “he’s super busy.” We agreed. Then, Ted asked what our plan was for the rest of the day. Bit odd. We talked about how we might finish our 12-hour workday with some cocaine and hookers. Ted thought nothing of it, and went on to say how he didn’t really care for the weather in Sydney at the moment. More small talk was made, and something definitely seemed off. The next red flag was much more blatant.
Hello From The UAE
Those of you who neatly divide the world up into “oppressed vs. oppressors” may want to cover your ears for what we’re about to say. Some cultures out there have a bad rap because of the frequent crimes their citizens commit that their governments do little to suppress. If someone cold calls you from Nigeria about an inheritance, you probably know what’s coming next. Same goes for calls from Ghana, where The Sakawa Boys haven’t done Ghanaians any favors. If someone with a Jamaican accent says they’re sending you a key for the car you just won, you probably know where that’s going. And if someone with a Los Angeles number texts you from the UAE, that’s a small red flag you need to pay attention to.
If you think we’re being too cautious, maybe Mariana van Zeller can convince you otherwise. She’s an award-winning journalist who infiltrated Jamaican scam culture and Israeli binary options trading culture to expose the incredibly vast world of scammers who prey on – in their own words – “the gullibility of Americans.” Every American should watch Episode One of Trafficked on NatGeo (costs $2.99 on Amazon) so you can see for yourselves. There are certain red flags that you can’t just bury your head in the sand and ignore. Anyways, back to Jason and Ted.
Ted and Jason’s Excellent Adventure
Jason was super busy but somehow found the time to text us minutes after the handoff from Ted. The WhatsApp invite came from a Los Angeles phone number and a validation from WhatsApp that we were communicating with a business. The conversation started off with some generic sales bull shite that immediately made us realize this wasn’t about pitching anything, it was about trying to get us to invest in something. When we clicked the link to the website Jason provided, it went to a binary options website called Bit Degree Fx. Always stay away from anything that says “binary options” with a ten-foot pole. The problem is flourishing despite the FBI issuing an investor alert in 2017 about binary options fraud. These days, there are more than 1,000 binary options scammers operating out of Israel alone.
So, we gave the real Ted an actual voice call. His mates have been calling him off the hook. LinkedIn has closed his account. And who knows what the ultimate take was for the people running the scam. As for Jason, he’s still trying to get us to sign up, investigations be damned.
Chatting with schleprock – Credit: Nanalyze
We’re going to reach out to LinkedIn for comment and also pass on what information we can to assist their investigation. It’s easy enough to use some threat intelligence to figure out what’s actually going on behind the scenes here. It’s likely that the problem is pretty benign. Most of us use the same credentials across multiple accounts, so it’s likely a case where someone’s credentials were bought on the dark web and used across multiple platforms to find breaches. Then, there’s a script they follow on each platform to try and further their scam.
These scammers are using technology in every possible way to fleece American society brazenly, and nobody seems to be talking about it. It’s especially affecting the elderly if that helps get people motivated.
Scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated. They’re now able to mimic someone’s voice after listening to them for 60 seconds. They’re able to hijack social media accounts and mimic the people you know and trust. They’re able to hijack domains and make things appear to be something they’re not. Unfortunately, there’s only one way to detect this cacophony of rubbish. You have to pay attention to the smallest of red flags.
We’ve been saving our readers from OTC scams for well over a decade now, and we couldn’t be prouder of that. We stopped using ads on our site because hustlers were peddling rubbish to our readers. We’ve heard from a lot of people who were being scammed and just needed to stop denying it. Remember the four most dangerous words in investing – “this time it’s different.” If you see a red flag, you immediately stop what you are doing and move on. Accumulating wealth is extremely difficult work. Make these scheming aholes work just as hard to get it.
A blind monkey can make money in the markets these days. We don’t need new alpha generation strategies. If anyone you speak with or any website you interact with mentions the words “binary options,” you run. It’s maybe the biggest mistake that Ted and Jason are making right now. That and the 1980s website. But it’s easy enough to change the name to something else and hire a decent web designer, and there are thousands of these scam operations in progress. Let’s just go ahead and agree that a dead giveaway you’re probably being scammed is any mention of binary options trading. It’s that simple.
Throughout our engagement with Jason and Ted, there were more red flags than a Chinese military parade. Still, there’s one failsafe way to not get scammed. Don’t send money to a trading account at a no-name brokerage platform – the JP Marlins of the world. Use well-known regulated brokerage firms such as Interactive Brokers or Charles Schwab to conduct trades.
Anyone trying to give you something for nothing is full of it. Anyone who is trying to sell you some alpha generation strategy involving you or them trading in and out of the markets is full of it. Spread the word amongst your friends, your acquaintances, your elderly relatives. Maybe soon, major media outlets will do the same.
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