'Elon Musk' Bitcoin Scam Sees Woman Lose Thousands of Dollars to Fraudsters Taking Advantage of Hype

A U.K. woman who lost thousands of dollars' worth of savings in a Bitcoin scam has spoken out to raise awareness about the fraud technique she fell victim to.

Julie Bushnell, a teacher who lives in England, came across what she thought was a legitimate news article on a website that appeared to pose as the BBC news outlet.

The fake article reportedly claimed that U.S. billionaire Elon Musk—who often speaks out about cryptocurrency—was taking part in a bitcoin giveaway in which he would pay back double what others put in.

The real BBC reported on Thursday that Bushnell, a cryptocurrency investor herself, sent £9,000 (over $12,650) to the scammers, though it did not say how the money was deposited.

Bushnell realized she had fallen for a scam after the money was not returned to her. She told the BBC the scam had affected her "massively" and that she had been saving up the £9,000 as a deposit for a home.

She added: "I want to raise awareness of this scam so it doesn't happen to other vulnerable people."

The real BBC told Newsweek: "We are aware of a website using BBC News branding, directing people to submit their personal bank details. We are taking action to have the site closed down."

Whale Alert, a cryptocurrency transaction tracking service, told Newsweek in March it had tracked over $100 million worth of stolen or scammed bitcoin in 2020 and that "this year we expect that number to at least triple."

It added: "About Elon Musk, more blame probably lies with the media that have created an image of an eccentric, or even erratic, billionaire. A lot of people think that him giving away free money is perfectly reasonable and we do not blame them."

Bitcoin scams are not uncommon, and Bushnell is not the only person to have fallen for one this year. Many of them are so-called cryptocurrency "giveaways."

In recent days, scammers have been taking advantage of the hype surrounding Elon Musk's Saturday Night Live appearance to cheat people out of nearly $100,000 worth of cryptocurrency by posing as other people and promoting fake giveaways, Coindesk reports.

In March, one man lost the equivalent of nearly $570,000 in a Bitcoin scam in which fraudsters posed as staff at Tesla—the electric car company owned by Musk—and claimed a bitcoin giveaway was under way via a scam website.

The site claimed that if people deposited bitcoin then they would receive double that amount in return.

The man, who spoke to the BBC under the anonymous pseudonym Sebastian, said he sent 10 bitcoins to the scammers—at the time worth around $50,000 each—but received nothing back.

He said: "It is too easy to steal bitcoin. All the exchange platform websites should know who their customers are and know if a particular wallet address is being used by thieves."

This story has been updated to include a statement from the BBC.

Credit card by laptop
A stock photo shows a person holding a credit or debit card next to their laptop. Cryptocurrency scams are widespread. LDProd/Getty