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How USI Tech Pulled off One of the Largest Crypto Scams

What Exactly Is USI Tech?

USI Tech (United Software Intelligence Technology) is a company that claimed to develop the world’s first automated trading platform for Bitcoin (BTC). Starting in May 2017, USI Tech started concentrating on selling BTC packages to traders and miners who wanted to automate these activities.

At first, a lot of people bought into this plan. However, after some time, they began to increasingly suspect that USI Tech was really a Ponzi scheme. But how did the company pull it off in the first place?

USI Tech Owners

A lot of cryptocurrency project websites provide tons of relevant information about founders and team members. However, many also do not. In the case of USI Tech, the latter was true. On the project website, there wasn’t much info about who the USI Tech owners were. Furthermore, the site didn’t provide much information about the products that USI Tech was selling.

What we do know is that Joao Severino and Ralf Gold founded the project. Before starting USI Tech, Severino was banned from all financial activity in Portugal because of his involvement with another scam company called AMC Invest. Even worse, Ralph Gold had been involved in all sort of Ponzi scheme companies. These included AdsProfitReward, MX Fast Money, World Consumer Alliance, HourlyRevShare, AdsProfitWiz, APR Clicks, and Upper Game.

The company also claimed to be based in Dubai. However, the registration of the business is actually from Ras al Khaimah, another city in the United Arab Emirates that is well known for its offshore business registration services.

screenshot of USI Tech homepage (from November 2018)

As of November 2018, USI Tech’s homepage is just a simple login page.

How Did the USI Tech Claim That Users Could Make Money?

BTC packages started out at around 50 Euros each. The more packages you bought, the higher your return would be, allegedly. USI Tech’s automated software was supposed to provide a way for users to make passive income. The returns (one percent daily payout on average over five days per week) sounded promising to some people. The company also claimed to offer a staggering 140 percent return over the course of a 140-day package. It also stated (without proof) that some people had already received 150 percent returns.

Looking at these promises, it’s clear that this was too good to be true. However, put in context with the bull market of late 2017 and the introduction of new/eager traders, it’s easy to see how some people could fall for this. Still, there were other factors that point to the malicious nature of the company. For example, USI Tech openly operated as a multilevel network marketing company, which made many people view it as a pyramid scheme from the start.

USI Tech shut down its operations in the US and Canada in early 2018.

USI Tech Update: Timeline of Events

  • October 2017: USI Tech starts the Tech Coin ICO. USI Tech users hand back over 11,500 BTC from the same payments they were receiving from multiplier packages and member purchases.
  • December 2017: USI Tech receives a cease-and-desist order from the Texas State Securities Board.
  • January 2018: USA and Canada users stop receiving BTC payouts.
  • March 2018: USI Tech packages are no longer available for purchase or rewards.
  • March 2018: SEC requests documents from members.
  • April 2018: Spain’s financial regulation agency (Comisión Nacional del Mercado de Valores) adds USI Tech to its warning list.
  • August 2018: The Financial Markets Authority of New Zealand warns that USI Tech has all the characteristics of a scam.

What Lessons Can We Learn from This?

Regardless if you are someone who lost funds from this scam or chose to stay away from this particular one, there are a lot of things to take away from the USI Tech story.

First, sending funds to a third-party that guarantees high returns is generally a bad idea. As we’ve covered in a previous article, there is another blatant scam on Twitter similar to this. The cryptocurrency market is volatile, and there are certainly no guarantees of making a profit.

Second, it’s essential to research the project’s background. In the case of the USI Tech owners, the evidence couldn’t be clearer. Many members were already experienced scam artists well before working for USI Tech. This should have been the only red flag needed for most people.

Third, you shouldn’t blindly trust success stories about how people made money through investing in a particular cryptocurrency, product, etc. In any pyramid scheme, this story could simply be a lie.

USI Tech had all of the classic signs of a Ponzi scheme.

USI Tech Could Still Be Scamming

Even though there is ample information about the scam available from various sources online, the USI Tech owners and team members are still trying to fool potential investors. According to one Facebook group dedicated solely to calling out the project as a scam, people associated with the project are now using new language to avoid getting caught.

For example, members have been told to avoid using terms like “return of capital” and “investment.” In the future, it’s even possible that the company could change its name to keep the pyramid scheme going. Still, don’t let this fool you into falling for this specific scam or a similar one.

Additionally, as of November 2018, the USI Tech website is still online. However, the homepage is nothing but a login screen for existing members. There also isn’t an option for signing up as a new member.

Conclusion

Hopefully, you now have all of the information you need to know about USI Tech and the company’s large-scale cryptocurrency scam. As a cryptocurrency investor, always be sure to investigate in-depth and make informed decisions. More importantly, it’s crucial to learn from cases like this. With this knowledge, you should be able to prevent yourself from falling for similar scams in the future.

originally posted here

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Hacker arrested for stealing crypto-assets worth $1 Million in ‘SIM Swapping’ scam

Nicholas Truglia, a 21 year old man, has been arrested after he was identified as the hacker behind multiple ‘SIM Swapping’ hackings. SIM swapping is a mode of hacking in which the hacker takes over a phone number by duping wireless carriers, then uses that information to access and drain cryptocurrency accounts. The hacker hijacks your phone without your knowledge and locks you out of operating it.

21 counts of economic crimes

As per documents filed in court, the suspect was charged with 21 counts of economic crimes, including; identity theft, fraud, embezzlement, crimes that “involve a pattern of related felony conduct,” and attempted grand theft.

According to the arresting officials, he hacked into the phones of multiple Silicon Valley executives in his first attempt which was unsuccessful. In another attempt, he was able to get away with $1 million from the accounts of a San Francisco resident-Robert Ross, a father of two. Mr. Ross said he had opened several e-wallet accounts in which he had been saving for his daughter’s college.

AT&T network Hijacked

The victim says that on Oct. 26, he noticed his phone suddenly lose its signal. Fazed with the rare occurrence, he visited a nearby Apple store to seek help. He also got on the phone with his network provider- AT&T.  According to the investigating officials however, the hacker proved too swift, draining half a million U.S. dollars from MR. Ross’ Coinbase and Gemini e-wallets.

According to a felony complaint filed this month in California state court, the suspect lifted the $1 million from Ross’ two cryptocurrency accounts. Speaking to the press, Erin West, the deputy district attorney of Santa Clara County stated that, “It’s a whole new wave of crime.” He added that “It’s a new way of stealing of money: They target people that they believe to have cryptocurrency.”

Converted proceeds into crypto before moving it offshore

After obtaining the funds, Nicholas Truglia converted the money to cryptocurrency and moved it to his own accounts before Ross was able to regain control of his phone number. Officials were able to recover $300,000 from a hard drive found a computer in his 42nd Street high-rise apartment in Manhattan. The remaining amount is yet to be accounted for.

The transactions leading to the concealment of the stolen funds were traced through the help of the blockchain technology which publicly records all cryptocurrency transactions. He has since acceded to be extradited to Santa Clara to answer the charges in the California court where he is expected to take plea in December. CRYPTO IS COMING!

Authorities Arrest 23-Year Old Woman For Stealing Cryptocurrencies

A Cybercrime squad in Riot arrested a 23-year-old woman in Sydney who is believed to have stolen cryptocurrencies worth $450,000.

The woman was arrested on Thursday morning after police raided her home in Epping. During the arrest, police seized computers, mobile phones, documents and hard drives found in her possession. Police are yet to confirm whether she acted alone on the crime. The suspect is believed to have been responsible for stealing 100,000 units of Ripple that belonged to a 56-year-old man.

According to reports, the victim reported the matter to the police earlier this year in January. In his statement, the victim claimed that someone stole his cryptocurrencies after they managed to lock him out of his trading account. The 56-year-old explained that the criminal (s) locked him out of his account which had 100,000 units of Ripple worth at the time $450,000.  After countless attempts to access his accounts, the victim finally gained access to his account and discovered that his money had been transferred to a Chinese exchange where it was converted into bitcoins. The currencies were then sent to multiple electronic wallets.

Upon investigations, police discovered that an email account belonging to the victim had been hacked last year. This provided the criminal with the victim’s account. Further investigations led authorities knocking at the woman’s door.

Police Caution Investors

Arthur Katsogiannis, the cybercrime squad commander, stated that this was the first time Australian officials were charging an individual for the technology-enabled theft of cryptocurrencies. He warned investors to trade with caution as this type of crime could become the new norm.

Katsogiannis further added that to prevent such incidents, investors will have to treat their personal information like valuable commodities. He urged investors to be extra careful with their passwords, and any other account details that might be used by criminals to steal their funds.

In conclusion, the Detective Superintendent Katsogiannis stated the government in Australia and other law enforcement agencies are working to regulate cryptocurrency exchanges in the coming days.

Increased Level of criminal activities in the crypto space

Lately, there are more and more headlines on various crypto crimes like fraud, hacking and money laundering.

Recently, a study showed that money laundering in Europe had cost authorities about $ 5 billion in revenue.

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