Elon Musk Impostors Scammed $2 Million in Cryptocurrency, U.S. Says

The proposition was tantalizing: Handsome returns awaited investors who would be willing to provide an infusion of cryptocurrency to Elon Musk, the billionaire chief executive of Tesla and founder of SpaceX, for a moneymaking venture.

It seemed too good to be true, because it was.

Investors lost $2 million in six months to fraudsters who impersonated Mr. Musk, the Federal Trade Commission said in a report released on Monday that was meant to draw attention to a spike in cryptocurrency scams.

The commission found that nearly 7,000 people lost a reported $80 million over all from October through March as part of various scams targeting investors in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies like Dogecoin, a nebulous marketplace that Mr. Musk has bullishly promoted on Twitter. The median amount that they lost was $1,900, according to the commission.

The spate of fraud cases — a nearly 1,000 percent increase compared with the same period the previous year, the report said — came as the price of Bitcoin and Dogecoin soared toward record highs.

bought $1.5 billion worth of Bitcoin, which Tesla said was part of an initiative to invest in alternative assets like digital currencies and gold bullion.

accept Bitcoin as payment for cars in the United States, sent the price of Bitcoin skyward by more than 10 percent. But then Mr. Musk reversed course this month, saying that the company will no longer accept the cryptocurrency because of concerns over its effects on the environment.

Mr. Musk has similarly sent mixed messages regarding Dogecoin, which was created as a cryptocurrency parody in 2013 and has recently been booming.

Last week, he polled his 55.1 million followers on Twitter on whether Tesla should accept Dogecoin; 78 percent of respondents said yes. He also revealed last week that SpaceX would launch a satellite to the moon next year in exchange for a payment in Dogecoin. In a May 8 appearance on “Saturday Night Live,” Mr. Musk said that cryptocurrency was both “the future of currency” and “a hustle.”

Joseph A. Grundfest, a professor of law and business at Stanford and a former member of the Securities and Exchange Commission, said in an interview on Monday night that the surge in scams involving cryptocurrency was not at all surprising amid the surging prices.

He said that investors should be more circumspect when faced with propositions like those concocted by the impersonators of Mr. Musk.

“Don’t send cryptocurrency to Elon Musk,” Mr. Grundfest said. “He already has more than he needs.”

The Federal Trade Commission cautioned on Monday in the report that fraudsters had used online dating platforms to lure people into cryptocurrency scams. About 20 percent of the money that people reported losing through romance schemes since October was sent in cryptocurrency, the report said.

The commission also noted that people ages 20 to 49 were more than five times as likely as older people to report losing money on cryptocurrency investment scams.

Cryptocurrency experts cautioned that it was especially difficult for victims of fraud schemes to get their money back and that cryptocurrency had become a preferred payment method for those orchestrating ransomware attacks.

“As a practical matter, there is no recourse,” Mr. Grundfest said. “Why crypto? It’s very simple. It’s very hard to trace.”

View Source

Tesla’s U-Turn on Bitcoin Raises Questions of Its Stability

Elon Musk has been a big cryptocurrency booster of late, even directing Tesla to buy $1.5 billion in Bitcoin for its corporate treasury earlier this year. On Thursday, he abruptly reversed course, tweeting that Tesla would stop accepting Bitcoin as payment for cars, citing environmental reasons.

“We are concerned about rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions, especially coal, which has the worst emissions of any fuel,” he said.

Bitcoin’s price promptly plunged by more than 10 percent, and Tesla’s shares dropped more than 4 percent, but recovered when trading began on Thursday.

billion-dollar Bitcoin buy, pushing the price up by more than 10 percent. Bitcoin seems remarkably sensitive to the billionaire’s tweets. “If one person can dramatically alter spending power, the ‘stable store of value’ criteria of a currency is not met,” Paul Donovan of UBS wrote in a note to clients on Thursday.

Mining Bitcoin is energy-intensive, and the more it is worth, the more power it takes a network of computers to create the tokens, by design. Bitcoin’s climate problem is hardly a secret. The DealBook newsletter asks: What gives?

  • Tesla only started accepting Bitcoin for car purchases in the United States in March. Just over two weeks ago, Zach Kirkhorn, Tesla’s chief financial officer, told investors that “it is our intent to hold what we have long term and continue to accumulate Bitcoin from transactions from our customers as they purchase vehicles.” He described the rationale for buying and accepting Bitcoin as “Elon and I were looking for a place to store cash that wasn’t being immediately used, trying to get some level of return.”

  • An entry-level Tesla is worth about one Bitcoin, so the company’s $1.5 billion Bitcoin purchase in February far surpasses the amount of crypto it would collect from car sales for a very long time. That raises questions about the vetting and approval process for that investment, which may worry E.S.G. investors, who otherwise look favorably at an electric vehicle company. Did Mr. Musk not know about Bitcoin’s environmental impact until now? Who advised him on it? Did climate factor into the board’s approval process?

  • SpaceX’s rockets are massive carbon emitters. The Boring Company, his tunnel drilling endeavor, has also faced criticism about its environmental impact.

  • Mr. Musk’s statement said that “Tesla will not be selling any Bitcoin and we intend to use it for transactions as soon as mining transitions to more sustainable energy.” We’ll see whether it made any recent trades when it reports second-quarter results in July. Given the impact that Mr. Musk’s tweet had on Bitcoin’s price, any action just before or after will be scrutinized.

  • The return policy for cars bought with Bitcoin worked in Tesla’s favor, stipulating that buyers get back Bitcoin if it’s worth less than the equivalent dollar value at purchase but get back dollars if Bitcoin is worth more. That raises many issues, including accounting risks and worries about warranties and other consumer protection laws.

Mr. Musk can be an unreliable narrator. On Tuesday, he asked his followers on Twitter if Tesla should accept Dogecoin, the jokey cryptocurrency. (Most said yes.) On Sunday, he announced that SpaceX had taken Dogecoin as payment for shuttling a satellite to the moon. And as host of “Saturday Night Live,” he said that cryptocurrency was both “the future of currency” and “a hustle.”

View Source

Tesla stops accepting Bitcoin as payment for its cars.

Three months after Tesla said it would begin accepting the cryptocurrency Bitcoin as payment, the electric carmaker has abruptly reversed course.

In a message posted to Twitter on Wednesday, Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, said Tesla had suspended accepting Bitcoin because of concern about the energy consumed by computers crunching the calculations that underpin the currency.

“Cryptocurrency is a good idea on many levels and we believe it has a promising future, but this cannot come at a great cost to the environment,” Mr. Musk wrote. “We are concerned about rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions, especially coal, which has the worst emissions of any fuel.”

Earlier this year, Tesla announced that it had purchased $1.5 billion worth of Bitcoin and Mr. Musk trumpeted the company’s plan to accept the currency. Tesla later sold about $300 million of its Bitcoin holdings, proceeds that padded its bottom line in the first quarter.

Some estimates put the energy use of Bitcoin at more than the entire country of Argentina.

“Bitcoin uses more electricity per transaction than any other method known to mankind, and so it’s not a great climate thing,” Bill Gates said in February.

Mr. Musk also said on Wednesday that Tesla was “looking at other cryptocurrencies” that use a fraction of the energy consumed by Bitcoin. Mr. Musk has been a promoter of Dogecoin, a cryptocurrency that started as a joke but that has exploded in value. In an appearance on “Saturday Night Live” last week, Mr. Musk referred to Dogecoin as a “hustle.” Dogecoin fell by nearly a third in price on the night of the show.

View Source

Dogecoin Had an Eventful Weekend, Thanks to Elon Musk.

Is Elon Musk really taking Dogecoin to the moon? That’s what the Tesla chief executive has been pledging to do with the jokey cryptocurrency, mostly in terms of cheering on its skyrocketing price. But on Sunday, he tweeted that one of his other companies, SpaceX, is launching a satellite called Doge-1 on a mission paid for with Dogecoin, the DealBook newsletter reports.

Saturday Night Live,” at one point calling the token “a hustle.” Dogecoin, which is based on an internet meme about a Shiba Inu, fell by nearly a third in price on the night of the show. It was such an eventful night for the cryptocurrency that the Robinhood trading app couldn’t keep up. The crypto token is still up more than 10,000 percent in price this year.

SpaceX and Geometric Energy Corporation, a Canadian technology firm, are teaming up to carry a 90-pound satellite on a Falcon 9 moon mission, according to a statement on Sunday. “Having officially transacted with DOGE for a deal of this magnitude, Geometric Energy Corporation and SpaceX have solidified DOGE as a unit of account for lunar business,” said G.E.C.’s chief executive, Samuel Reid. (A company representative confirmed to DealBook that the project was not a joke but declined to explain further.)

growing contingent of lobbyists in Washington and a recent hiring spree of former regulators. This month, the House passed a bill backed by crypto lobbyists to create a working group to examine frameworks for regulating digital assets.

The bill, said Representative Stephen F. Lynch, Democrat of Massachusetts, was a chance “to act proactively toward financial innovation rather than to address gaps in our regulatory framework after the fact.”

The bill is now with the Senate Banking Committee. “Financial regulators have been slow when it comes to protecting consumers from private-sector digital assets that add more risks to our financial system,” Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the committee chair, told DealBook in a statement. He declined to provide a timeline for advancing the legislation.

View Source

Elon Musk’s SpaceX Takes Dogecoin as Payment for Moon Mission

Is Elon Musk really taking Dogecoin to the moon? That’s what the Tesla chief executive has been pledging to do with the jokey cryptocurrency, mostly in terms of cheering on its skyrocketing price. But on Sunday, he tweeted that one of his other companies, SpaceX, is launching a satellite called Doge-1 on a mission paid for with Dogecoin, the DealBook newsletter reports.

Saturday Night Live,” at one point calling the token “a hustle.” Dogecoin, which is based on an internet meme about a Shiba Inu, fell by nearly a third in price on the night of the show. It was such an eventful night for the cryptocurrency that the Robinhood trading app couldn’t keep up. The crypto token is still up more than 10,000 percent in price this year.

SpaceX and Geometric Energy Corporation, a Canadian technology firm, are teaming up to carry a 90-pound satellite on a Falcon 9 moon mission, according to a statement on Sunday. “Having officially transacted with DOGE for a deal of this magnitude, Geometric Energy Corporation and SpaceX have solidified DOGE as a unit of account for lunar business,” said G.E.C.’s chief executive, Samuel Reid. (A company representative confirmed to DealBook that the project was not a joke but declined to explain further.)

growing contingent of lobbyists in Washington and a recent hiring spree of former regulators. This month, the House passed a bill backed by crypto lobbyists to create a working group to examine frameworks for regulating digital assets.

The bill, said Representative Stephen F. Lynch, Democrat of Massachusetts, was a chance “to act proactively toward financial innovation rather than to address gaps in our regulatory framework after the fact.”

The bill is now with the Senate Banking Committee. “Financial regulators have been slow when it comes to protecting consumers from private-sector digital assets that add more risks to our financial system,” Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the committee chair, told DealBook in a statement. He declined to provide a timeline for advancing the legislation.

View Source

Elon Musk: Memelord or Meme Lifter?

Elon Musk — the Tesla chief executive, SpaceX founder and soon-to-be “Saturday Night Live” host — is an open admirer of memes.

“Who controls the memes controls the universe,” Mr. Musk tweeted last summer. He has called the visual jokes “modern art” and shares them regularly on Twitter, where he has more than 52 million followers.

Mr. Musk doesn’t make many memes himself. Instead, he finds them online and has others send him their favorites. Sometimes he reposts his favorites without citing their origins.

by reposting work from other creators without credit or payment have encountered backlash. In 2019, a conversation about this issue was jump-started by a campaign against an Instagram account run by Jerry Media. It helped shift the standards by which brands and top influencers abide by today.

Quinn Heraty, a lawyer specializing in intellectual property law, noted that in 2017 the rapper Ludacris was sued by the website LittleThings for posting an illustration from the site on his Instagram, without giving credit. (The parties reached a settlement.)

richest man on earth, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, has used Twitter to bolster his persona (and promote cryptocurrencies and stocks, including his own).

Jamie Trufin, who runs a meme account called @DogeCoinDaddy, said he was disappointed when Mr. Musk posted one of his Doge memes in March without credit.

price of Dogecoin, a cryptocurrency, has continued to rise, thanks in part to Mr. Musk’s tweets about it.)

shared a meme created by a comedian that included a photo of her dog, which some say Mr. Musk tried to pass off as his own.

In 2019, after facing criticism for sharing artwork on Twitter without credit, Mr. Musk initially tweeted, “always credit everyone.” Then, he reversed course: “no one should be credited with anything ever,” he wrote, suggesting that “any fool can find out who the artist was in seconds.”

meme he had made in April about vaccinated people enjoying a promiscuous summer had been reposted by Mr. Musk. “Someone in my group chat was like, ‘LOL did everyone see how Elon straight up stole a meme that Miles made?”

Mr. Klee isn’t angry at Mr. Musk, but found the behavior off-putting. “Of course he has his minions who are willing to defend what he does,” Mr. Klee said, “but for everyone else who is normal who has been on the internet for a long time, it’s like, ‘Yeah, that’s a wack move.’”

Chas Steinbrugge, 19, a college freshman who runs the meme account @Trigomemetry, is also the creator of Meme Citations, a website that provides the origins of memes in Modern Language Association format.

“Personalities like Elon Musk not giving credit, that does hurt the creators,” he said. “He could create a situation where he’s promoting young meme creators and contributing to the community by tagging whoever created it or including watermarks.”

Several people who have had their content posted by Mr. Musk have since asked for payment, be it in dollars, Teslas or Bitcoin. (Mr. Monahan said he was willing to accept a “mere $80,000.”)

Mr. Klee took a more novel approach. “Can anyone help me make and sell an NFT of a screen shot of Elon Musk posting a horny vaccine meme i made?” he asked his followers on Twitter. Someone turned the tweet into an NFT, which Mr. Klee was able to sell for $1,000 in Ethereum, a cryptocurrency.

Reached by email for comment on this article, Mr. Musk responded with two uncredited memes:

View Source

Dogecoin Cryptocurrency Price Continues to Surge

Dogecoin, the cryptocurrency that started as a joke, is on a tear. A surge in the past day pushed it to another record, sending it some 14,000 percent higher than it started the year.

“Saturday Night Live” on May 8 could get more people interested in trading the crypto token. It’s as good a reason as any for those who try to rationalize its movements.

The latest bout of Dogecoin mania has somewhat overshadowed what’s going on in Ethereum, the second-largest cryptocurrency, which also set records this week and made its 27-year-old co-creator, Vitalik Buterin, a billionaire (in dollars). The price of Ether, the crypto token built on the Ethereum blockchain, is up more than 350 percent for the year to date, outpacing Bitcoin’s relatively pedestrian 90 percent gain — which, for context, outpaces every stock in the S&P 500 over that period.

View Source

E.V. Buying Guide: What to Know About Models, Batteries, Charging and More

Buying used could be a cheaper way to get an electric vehicle, though evaluate the car you are buying carefully, particularly the quality of the battery, because it will degrade over time. That said, a used electric vehicle could be a perfect choice for a second car for errands, commutes and other short trips.

As exciting as it may be to own an electric vehicle, it may not be for everyone. Many families and individuals can’t afford an E.V. that meets their needs — there are few electric vehicles with three rows and room for youth sports gear, for example, and they tend to be expensive. Others cannot easily charge at or near their homes. That’s why Mr. DeLorenzo and Mr. Fisher recommend plug-in hybrids.

“If you’re interested but not really sure you want to commit, these plug-in hybrids are kind of a gateway,” Mr. Fisher, of Consumer Reports, said.

For many people, a plug-in like a Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan or the RAV4 Prime S.U.V. could effectively serve as an all-electric vehicle, he said. Toyota claims the RAV4 Prime can run for 42 miles before switching to gasoline, while Chrysler says the Pacifica has 32 miles on a full charge. If used mostly for short commutes to work and trips around town, the cars could rarely use gas. Those two vehicles and other plug-in hybrids also qualify for federal tax credits.

“You can just plug it into your normal wall outlet and charge it overnight and you can get a taste of what that’s like, having an E.V., and then maybe your next vehicle will be a pure E.V.,” he said.

Of course, gas-powered cars have grown increasingly efficient, and choosing one wisely can help reduce emissions if you are upgrading from an older vehicle. Yet many people buy cars based on what they consider alluring and attractive. And if you are wowed by the features and design of an E.V., you might find it hard to settle for anything else, Mr. DeLorenzo said.

“It’s a different experience,” he said. “It’s not the same as owning a regular car, for sure. So there’s something to be said for that.”

View Source