KPRC 2 Investigates: Fake crypto coach steals $30,000+ from Conroe family

The tricky way thieves build trust, convince people to invest

CONROE, Texas – As you look to make money in the new year, you may be curious about cryptocurrency. While it’s becoming more popular, it can be confusing. That’s part of why so many people fall victim to crypto fraud. A Conroe man said he did his homework and thought he was doing everything right, but he still lost a lot of money. He called KPRC 2 Investigates for help.

How social media influencers are targeting curious users

Nathan Sanders said he’s been thinking about investing in crypto for a while now. He read up on the news, and the warnings and followed “crypto influencers” on social media. That’s where the trouble all started.

“They were very helpful. It was like, I’m telling you, they weren’t like pushy or anything like that,” explained Sanders.

Looking to learn about cryptocurrency, Sanders was excited when an investor he was following contacted him on Instagram.

“And according to them, they turned $500,000 in the $2.5 million in two and a half years, investing in Coinbase,” said Sanders.

Conroe man is the victim of an elaborate cryptocurrency scheme. (Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Sanders trusted using Coinbase, one of the top crypto trading sites. But here’s the first red flag: the investor had him click on a secondary site *from Coinbase* for the transactions.

“So start small. They did like a small amount, made money off of it,” he explained. “I was able to pull the money out with a test. I’m skeptical at first. I’m like ‘you just reaching out to me, pulled the money out, was able to pull it out, did another trade.’”

The ability to take money out made Sanders feel safe, so he invested more. Then weeks later, Sanders had a big problem. He was the victim of ID theft with thieves using his information to take out loans in his name. He realized that a secondary crypto site might be the problem and wanted to take his money out. It was too late.

“Just shut down and gone, taken, like transferred it to their account. We’re talking about over, you know, $30,000 loss.”

Sanders contacted Conroe police, the FBI, and the Federal Trade Commission.

Conroe man is the victim of an elaborate cryptocurrency scheme. (Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

This type of crypto fraud is called a “pig butchering” scheme

After a big increase in cases like this, the FBI recently sent out a warning calling it a pig butchering scheme - where someone appears to be a successful crypto trader wanting to help you make money.

Red flags in cases like this include:

  • An “investment manager” steers you to a secondary website that looks real but is fake.
  • They spend a lot of time getting to know you and making you feel comfortable.
  • You make money and are able to take the money out, at first. This builds trust.
  • These fake sites could have malware to infect your computer and steal your passwords.

[Read more information from the FBI in this week’s Ask Amy.]

“It’s kinda like the wild, wild west with cryptocurrency,” said Sanders.

Coinbase told us they warn customers about checking secondary websites. They are working with Sanders on his case. Coinbase sent us this warning about investment scams and they pointed out that they have extensive security measures in place to help fight this type of crime.

Conroe PD and the FBI told us they can’t comment since the investigation is ongoing. They also asked us not to name the suspected fake crypto coach or show the website.

So far Sanders has not gotten his money back.

How to check a website for malicious links

If the crypto site has a secondary link, you can check the site for malware using these free websites PC Risk or Site Check.

Anyone who believes they’ve been a victim of cryptocurrency fraud should file a report with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov. They can also call the FBI Houston Field Office at 713-693-5000.


About the Authors:

Award-winning TV producer and content creator. My goal as a journalist is to help people. Faith and family motivate me. Running keeps me sane.

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.