Cryptocurrency worth $2 million was stolen by scammers pretending to front an ICO project named Giza. The would-be start-up claimed that it was developing a secure device that promised users a safe place to store their digital currencies. However, the main figure behind the ICO was never even seen by Giza’s own investors and ex-employees. More than a thousand investors were drawn to the ICO project despite the apparent false persona behind Giza who used a false LinkedIn profile as well as pictures from someone else’s Instagram account.
According to CNBC, an investor who placed $10,000 worth of ether, and another who invested $5,000 worth of cryptocurrency, as well as a slew of others who began putting money in the Giza project did so from January to February. However, most of them later began to have suspicions on the project’s legitimacy.
Giza was able to raise more than 2,100 worth of ethereum coins in February – a value that is equivalent to $2.4 million. Now, only $16 of those digital coins are available while the rest are now missing. Investors who described to CNBC their experience with Giza all thought the ICO was authentic until red flags started to appear: Giza’s only supplier cut ties with the company, no correspondence from the founders were seen, and attempts to get back the lost funds have failed.
The individual said to be responsible for the scam was a certain Marco Fike – Giza’s COO. Fike was in communication with Ivan Larionov, the CEO of The Third Pin LLC – a company that creates hardware for a slew of industries. Larionov claimed that a Giza representative contacted him prior to the new year and was given a design for a device Giza wanted Larionov’s company to make. The engineers of Third Pin eventually created the device’s specifications and quoted to Fike a $1 million price. A contract was similarly signed.
Larionov began contacting a components supplier to help complete the device Giza contracted them for. The components supplier asked how much they needed as well as when the product would be produced – questions Larionov asked Fike but to which the latter was unable to answer. Fike also asked Larionov to set up operations outside Russia – a move Larionov suspected was a way for Fike to escape Russia’s rigid cryptocurrency rules. When the cost of producing the device increased to $1.5 million, Larionov advised Fike that paying in installments is possible – a suggestion Fike refused to do. Larionov considered this the last straw and cut ties with Giza.
Fike’s LinkedIN profile claims he studied at U.K.’s University of Oxford but no college was listed. He also claimed to have been a Microsoft employee but the software giant revealed no Fike worked for the company. Commenters in Reddit have indicated that Giza is a scam. A commenter with the username donexan wrote: “I am also an investor. Confirmed scam. Got banned on telegram for asking legit questions about team. I invested in an hurry right before it ended which was my biggest mistake so far in cryptos.”
Investors who are trying to contact Giza have no clear idea on how to get their money back. A few have asked UK law enforcement to assist them. Cal Evans, Giza’s legal advisor and owner of crypto compliance firm Gresham International, believe that the project was initially legitimate. He was brought on to review Giza’s website documents but has now cut ties with the start-up. He advised investors: “We are going to do whatever we can to catch these guys.”