A Houston man said he has hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in cryptocurrency he can’t access. Jeff McCollum thought he had done his research before investing more than $200,000 through an online investment company.
“I feel like I can pretty much lose everything,” said Jeff McCollum. “I’ll just go back to square one and just rebuild from there.”
McCollum appears to have more than $420,000 in cryptocurrency available in his account with an online investment company. However, he can’t withdraw any of those funds. McCollum tried to withdraw $2,000 from the account while speaking with KPRC 2 Investigates and received a message from the company.
“It says, ‘Sorry your account is currently not available to withdraw funds,’” said McCollum.
McCollum said a friend put him in touch with a supposed financial advisor who recommended using this company to invest in cryptocurrency.
“Both of us used to talk about cryptocurrency, we both invested. We actually did pretty well,” said McCollum.
The company’s website looks legitimate at first glance and McCollum said he saw his initial investments earning money.
“On the website, it was showing how much I was making every single day,” McCollum said.
McCollum said when he tried to withdraw his money, he was suddenly told he had to pay personal income tax.
“As soon as that happened, I knew something was wrong,” he said. “I had borrowed from my mother’s retirement. I had borrowed from my own 401k.”
McCollum showed KPRC 2 weeks of text and WhatsApp messages with the company and the financial advisor who recommended the site. However, no resolution was reached.
“I tried to work with them back-and-forth and everything that they would say it always just ended up in the same thing, ‘No, you have to give us money from external funds,’ said McCollum. “I said you have everything, I have nothing else. I have the shirt on my back, that’s it.”
When you look closer at the website used by McCollum, you start to notice poor grammar and the logo looks identical to the logo for Intercontinental Exchange; a well-respected and well-established company that operates global financial exchanges.
When we asked ICE about its logo being used on the website, McCollum showed us and received the following email response: ”ICE has no affiliation with that website or the company operating it,” a spokesperson wrote.
“At this point, I honestly don’t believe that I’m going to get anything back,” said McCollum.
KPRC 2 Investigates also tried to reach out to the operators of the website used by McCollum and have not received a response.
The Director of Financial Planning for RIA Financial, Richard Rosso, said investing in cryptocurrency requires caution.
“I always say stick with the big boys if you do want to look at crypto,” said Rosso.
Rosso said only invest in cryptocurrency with an established history and ask well-known investment firms for advice on which currency is reputable. He said almost anyone can create a coin and promise big returns.
“It’s very easy to promise you that I’m going to double your money if I’m creating the money,” said Rosso.
When it comes to websites like the one McCollum used for investment, you have to look closely.
“Look for misspellings, look for bad grammar, sentences that look fragmented,” said Rosso.
Rosso cautions when checking out a potential investment website, don’t use your phone because the mobile version can look very different than the full website. He also suggests running any crypto investment opportunities past another person, especially when using a website you’re not familiar with. He said a lot of people get caught up in the fanfare surrounding cryptocurrency and miss warning signs.
“It’s got this romantic notion around it that it’s going to replace the dollar. It’s the next best thing,” said Rosso.
A look at past stories KPRC 2 Investigates has done on cryptocurrency: