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Bitcoin Ransom Demanded for Missing Nine-Year-Old Girl in South Africa

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Bitcoin Ransom

An anti-crime website and Facebook group known as Western Cape Gangwatch has received an anonymous message that is demanding for bitcoin ransom in order to return a missing nine-year-old girl. The kidnappers are demanding five bitcoin (around $19,000) for the release of the young girl.

Bitcoin Ransom Demand

The missing girl named Linathi Titshala was last seen on December 16, 2018. Titshala had celebrated her birthday on December 14, 2018, and her grandmother threw her a party on December 15, 2018, after which she spent the night at her grandmother’s Cork Tree Street home. On December 16, 2018, the last day she was seen, she was sent to her family home, two doors from her grandmother’s to go and have a bath, and has not been seen by any of her family members since.

On Thursday, the admin for the Western Cape Gangwatch group, who frequently works with law enforcement agencies, was shocked to reportedly receive an email that read: “Do you want to find Linathi Titshala. If you want her safe return you are to pay 5 Bitcoin to the following Bitcoin address. 1Bk4TQzDXhxGgMwrXcaFhViSyoT9GLk2kN. You have 48 hours should you not transfer the bitcoin in 48 hours we will cease communication. This email is going to be deleted in 12 hours.”

Search for Linathi Titshala Ongoing

Gangwatch tried tracing the email but have not been successful so far. A spokesperson for the group said: “We are trying to track it via the Bitcoin code, but believe the email the person is using was probably created at an Internet café, which automatically deletes it and there is no IP address available either. Hopefully, they realise the family’s circumstances and realise they cannot keep the girl for a lengthy period.”

Bitcoin FaucetsCandice Sobotker, from the Western Cape Missing Persons Unit said that the search for Titshala is still ongoing. Sobotker went on to say: “We are pooling all resources including doing a search again in the coming week. There will be a search for Linathi on Monday, 7 January and Tuesday, 8 January, [from] 9am-4pm. Everyone will meet at Delft SAPS. For more information, please contact Candice on 082 225 2612.”

Bitcoin transactions are hard to track due to the pseudo-anonymity of bitcoin wallet addresses which is why bitcoin has been increasingly used as a ransom payment method in kidnappings in South Africa.

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BitClub Network: The Rise And Fall of A Bitcoin Mining Scam

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Bitclub Network

Operators of the prominent bitcoin mining company, Bitclub Network, have been arrested and charged with fraud by the US Department of Justice in December 2019.

In this article, you will learn about the rise and fall of the BitClub Network scam, which has defrauded thousands of bitcoin investors.

What is BitClub?

The BitClub Network is a company that claims to enable individuals to make money through bitcoin cloud mining. Since BitClub was established in 2014, it has been in the spotlight for supposedly using MLM strategies to defraud investors.

BCN claimed on its website (before it was taken down) that it is a “team of experts, entrepreneurs, professionals, network marketers, and programming geeks who have all come together to launch a very simple business around a very complex industry.” These unspecific details about the people behind the company should have been the first warning sign.

The founders of BitClub Network have been anonymous for a long time. Only convicted sex offender, Russ Medlin, was associated with the bitcoin mining scam. However, recent arrests have brought to light other people that could be architects of the investment scheme.

Plenty of Red Flags

In addition to the acute lack of information about the company and its operators, the list of red flags was long.

  • Investors have to pay $100 to join BCN. They then choose from three packages of $500, $1,000, and $2,000. Considering that you can join other mining pools for free, BCN does not look attractive at all.
  • Generally, earning profits through bitcoin mining is difficult but on BCN, this is almost impossible. For example, an investor wrote on Steemit that he was earning $0.34 daily in 2017 with BCN’s $500 package. It would have taken nine years or more for him to get a return on his investment. But since the contract was only running for 600 days, he was never going to make any profits.
  • You can only sign up for an account on BitClub if you have a sponsor. This is characteristic of MLM schemes that thrive on referrals.
  • Russ Medlin is a convicted sex offender from the US associated with various BitClub Network YouTube videos and blog posts. He is considered the “Master Distributor” and unofficial “Owner” of the scheme.
  • Ofir Beigel, the founder of 99Bitcoins, states that the company used a criminal’s picture under a different name to display a customer testimonial. The photos were later taken down after the misrepresentation was discovered.
  • Investors are encouraged to reinvest their cloud mining earnings, which is a tactic MLM companies use to stay alive.
  • Many BitClub YouTube videos that were suspicious were deleted after catching attention from reviewers.
  • BitClub launched a “digital currency” that had no value outside its platform.

The Rise

Bitclub Scam

There is no doubt that the BitClub Network has been aggressively marketed. From Facebook and Telegram groups to Reddit, BitClub promotions have been all over social media. This attributed to its steep growth.

Although the hype surrounding making money with bitcoin is not what it once was, BCN has convinced a lot of people that they could get rich through bitcoin mining. After five years, some investors, if not all, are reportedly regretting their decisions after losing thousands of dollars to BitClub.

In Africa, BCN was just as popular as anywhere else in the world and social media was a key recruitment tool. An example is the Facebook page, BitClub Network South Africa, which is asking people to join.

Using the “fake it till you make it” approach, the leaders of the scheme defrauded investors $722 million even though earlier reports showed that the Network was contributing to bitcoin’s mining activity. However, the information from the recent arrests reveals that the BCN operators were displaying fake mining numbers to investors.

The Fall

Bitclub Network Scam

As with any Ponzi scheme operators, the law is bound to catch up with them. This is what happened to Matthew Goettsche, Joseph Abel, Silviu Balaci, and Jobadiah Weeks, the alleged operators of BCN.

The US District Court prosecutors charged the four with fraud in December 2019 with regards to the BitClub Network Ponzi scheme.

While these arrests could have brought the company to its knees, Russ Medlin, a well-known name in the BitClub Network scam, has not yet been charged.

The arrests revealed that the operators were making millions of dollars while using a small fraction of the money they received from new investors to pay the old investors. Interestingly, the leaders of BCN were not shy to state in their correspondence that they were out to profit from “the typical dumb MLM investor.” In January 2015, Goettsche told Balaci:

“We are building this model on the backs of idiots.”

Lessons Learned

The story of Bitclub is a great lesson for new and future crypto investors. There is a lot we can learn from a bitcoin scam that has been able to operate for so long.

The key points are:

  • Always do your research before investing in any opportunity
  • If you cannot find clear details about the founders of an investment company, do not invest
  • Always regard with suspicion any investment opportunity that asks for registration fees
  • Anyone who promises returns is most likely lying
  • Bitcoin mining is making people money but not as fast as you think
  • Never invest in something you do not understand

The ugly side of crypto is real. There are people intentionally starting crypto scams to make money from unsuspecting investors. Therefore, it is important to stay vigilant and to research the companies you plan on doing business with.

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November 30, 2019: OKEX and BitcoinKE Partner for a FREE Crypto Margin Trading Class

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FREE Crypto Margin Trading Class

After a full-house event in Nairobi for the CrypTour through Africa, OKEx is back again to host its popular Genesis Trading Classe, titled “Crypto Margin Trading.”

The class will cover the following:

  • Basics of crypto trading
  • Trading tools
  • Margin trading
  • Reading of trading charts
  • Trading psychology
  • among other topics.

You don’t want to miss this exciting class!

Come and network with other crypto enthusiasts over drinks and snacks. There will be a jam-packed list of speakers who will also be joining for this class.

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EVENT DETAILS:

DATE: SATURDAY, 30TH, NOVEMBER 2019

TIME: 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM

VENUE: MARBLE ARCH HOTEL, LAGOS RD, OFF TOM MBOYA STREET, NAIROBI, KENYA

REGISTER: http://bit.ly/BITCOINKEOKEX2019

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Retired NBA Player Allegedly Scammed Ghanaian Company Out of $825,000 in Bitcoin

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NBA Player

Retired NBA player, Isaac Edward Austin, has allegedly scammed a Ghanaian Company out of $825,000 in bitcoin (BTC). The money was reportedly acquired with the promise of investing it in a bitcoin automated trading programme.

Bitcoin Investment Scam

bitcoin doublerThrough the Isaac Edward Austin (IEA) and Tudor Trust, Austin reportedly masqueraded as a trustee with the ability to help a Ghanaian company make a profit on a bitcoin investment. The two parties signed a contract on July 3, 2019. This contract is among other documents that have been shared on mynewsgh.com indicating the scam took place.

The company sent to a bitcoin investment at a strike price of $11,000 per bitcoin, totaling to $825,000, to Austin expecting to receive back the original investment plus profits. However, Austin failed to make the payment at the close of trading as per the agreement.

A victim of Austin’s scam shared his experience as follows: “He will take your BTC and you will never get your investment back or your returns. On the day of payment, he will tell you story after story filled with lies of issues why the BTC could not be delivered on the day of payment. From him having a heart attack, to the coin being sent to the wrong wallet, to him being in a queue at the bank, to him waiting for the trade to conclude, to the funds being held by the bank. Week after week after week of unresolved issues even when he has confirmed the day before that all is set 1000 percent to deliver and conclude the transaction. He is a fraudster of the highest order. Stay away from him. We have all the proof – contracts, letters, and messages.”

One of the other documents mynewsgh.com obtained is a letter sent to Austin notifying him of his failure to meet the agreed terms of the contract. The Ghanaian company expected their money back on the same day they signed the contract with Austin. The funds expected should have been 75 BTC going for a strike price of $11,000.

In the letter, the company gave Austin 48 hours to pay them their money – failure to which they were going to take legal action.

Is the Scammer an Imposter?

According to the documents shared on Ghana Web, the bitcoin scammer’s date of birth and height is similar to the former NBA player, Isaac Edward “Ike” Austin as indicated on Wikipedia. So, could this be a case of a retired basketball player turning into a scammer or is someone impersonating him? The answer to this question is unclear.

This LinkedIn profile of an Isaac Austin, who has been the Finance Director and Trustee of Tudor Trust and Finance Society LLC since June 2012, does not seem authentic. Although this profile has some similarities to the former NBA player’s personal information as written on Wikipedia, the years he attended Arizona State do not coincide.

Furthermore, the profile on LinkedIn says Isaac Austin took a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences for one year which is not the usual study period for a degree course. There is also no mention of the former NBA player being a trustee of IEA and Tudor Trust.

The upturn of the crypto market experienced in mid-2019 appears to have spurred scammers into action. This scam comes after another bitcoin investment deal in Nairobi went wrong between December 2018 and May 2019.

That said, these scam stories are a lesson to potential bitcoin investors that they are better off managing their own investments as opposed to handing funds to someone to manage them. If the Ghanaian company had carried out thorough research, perhaps they would have noticed the obvious red flags.

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