The cryptocurrency market is no stranger to high tech swindles, but a new low-tech scam concocted by “smart-looking gypsies” in the Russian town of Obninsk has officials scrambling to launch a national cryptocurrency education strategy.
Scam Perpetrators Sold Cheap Physical Bitcoins
Bitcoin is currently experiencing widespread mainstream adoption, a fact that has not gone overlooked by enterprising Roma people in Obninsk, a Russian town southwest of Moscow. A group of resourceful “travelers” in the town has apparently decided to launch their own interpretation of an ICO — offering residents the opportunity to invest in real, physical bitcoins.
An Obninsk resident recently posted a message on social media, notifying others of a group of “smart-looking gypsies” near a local supermarket that succeed in duping her husband out of 1000 rubles ($17.36) in return for two physical “bitcoins”:
“Smart-looking gypsies are selling ‘bitcoins’ near the Aksyenovsky department store. My husband bought a couple of coins for a thousand (rubles), came home and they turned up to be fake and it’s impossible to sell them. The vendor assured that they were constantly rising in price and we could earn several thousand due to difference in the rate of exchange”.
The coins bear a striking resemblance to the Bitcoin logo, but unfortunately don’t carry the same value — the grifters behind the racket could have purchased them from any gift shop in Russia. Similar novelty “bitcoins” are available for purchase online for an average price of one hundred rubles ($1.74).
Russian Government Launches Crypto Finance Literacy Initiative
The crypto-gypsy scam has gathered media attention across Russia in light of recent implications from Russian Central Bank Deputy Governor Olga Skorobogatova that the bank may support the development of a national cryptocurrency, or “crypto-ruble”.
Skorobogatova referenced the Obninsk “bitcoin” scam in a press conference for the Finopolis Forum of Innovative Financial Technologies last week, stating that the bank will focus on a new financial education program in order to help minimize the occurrence of such incidents.
Head of Consumer Protection Services Mikhail Mamuta also commented on the importance of crypto finance education, announcing that “The Central Bank will pay more attention to increasing financial literacy in this area in order to minimize basic mistakes.”
Need to Enhance Russian Financial Literacy Overall
Mamuta’s comments follow the recent integration of cryptocurrency education into the new Russian strategy to enhance national financial literacy, which was approved by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev last week. The program, which is based on a partnership between the Russian Ministry of Finance and the World Bank, will be implemented in two phases over the next six years.
Minister of Finance Anton Siluanov commented on the program during a “Russia 24” TV broadcast:
“The question of investing in instruments such as cryptocurrencies will, of course, be discussed, and we now see more risks than recommendations on investing in such instruments. So, explaining the possible consequences of investing in unregulated instruments will be one of the issues with which we will speak for the current year and until 2023.”
While the legal status of Bitcoin in Russia is still currently being debated in Russia’s lower house of the Federal Assembly, the State Duma, local Obninsk police have opened an investigation in an attempt to track down the culprits behind the scam.
Will more education help people avoid scams like this? Let’s hear your thoughts.
Images via Jon Southurst, Pixabay, Russia Central Bank