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El Salvador Sees Rise In Identity Theft As Scammers Steal Personal Data To Get $30 Bitcoin Bonus

bitcoinist.com 12 October 2021 17:30, UTC
Reading time: ~3 m

El Salvador’s bitcoin roll-out has had its up and downs since the country officially made it legal tender on September 7th. In the past month, residents have posted both the good and bad of bitcoin adoption. It has been chiefly favorable as citizens settle into their new standard of having a cryptocurrency as a legal tender, alongside the existing dollar legal tender.

The Chivo wallet, which is the official wallet of the El Salvador government, gives out a $30 sign-up bonus to residents 14 and above to encourage the adoption of crypto. Chivo wallet has had some technical issues following the implementation. But the developers have worked out the kinks as the weeks have passed. Now, a new problem has arisen with the wallet; El Salvadorians are having their identities stolen.

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Identity Theft Skyrockets

The $30 BTC bonus from the Chivo wallet carries a simple condition that residents sign up with their information and confirm it is them. After the verification process is complete, citizens will receive their bitcoin bonus and be on their way. However, scammers began to exploit this at an alarming rate, to the point where citizens have started to cry out.

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Some citizens who have yet to activate their Chivo wallets find out that their wallets have already been activated. Scammers used citizens’ personal information to activate their wallets, get the $30 bonus, and transfer it out to their wallets.

One such case was Tatiana Marroquin, an El Salvadorian economist, who downloaded the wallet for the first time to see that someone else had already activated her Chivo wallet. Marroquin explained on Twitter that she had never downloaded the wallet and had been prompted to do so after she had seen the numerous complaints from citizens about their wallets being activated by scammers.

Questioning The Security Of Chivo Bitcoin Wallets

Tatiana Marroquin is not the only one in this boat. The Chivo wallet helpline has been flooded with complaints of people finding out their wallets had been activated without their knowledge. The scammers had already made away with their $30 bitcoin sign-up bonus. But more importantly, this raises a security issue with using bitcoin wallets in the future.

BTC price falls below $57K | Source: BTCUSD on TradingView.com

Since each citizen can only activate a single wallet, they are effectively stuck with the wallets the scammers have already accessed. Putting funds in these wallets becomes a considerable risk as the scammers could easily access them and cart away whatever funds the user may have in their Chivo wallet. Furthermore, these bad actors could use these wallets to carry out illegal activities linked back to the user.

“By impersonating or stealing our identity, our personal data (DUI) could be linked to a user profile and activities that we have not carried out or consented to,” said attorney Laura Hernandez, a technology specialist, and public policy analyst.

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While the El Salvador government is yet to comment on these reports, others have taken to challenging the numbers put out by the president, Nayib Bukele, who claims that over 50% of the population were now using Chivo wallet. Computer scientist Mario Gomez pointed to a usage survey which showed that only 12% said they had used the Chivo wallet. 

The number of complaints on social media points to a large amount of the reported 52% of registered users as being scammers who were spoofing users’ information to collect the $30 bitcoin bonus.

Featured image from Nairametrics, chart from TradingView.com

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