Coinbase users slam crypto company’s phone support following hacks

Coinbase customers are angry with the company’s customer support following hacks on their cryptocurrency accounts. Eamon Javers joins ‘Squawk Box’ to detail CNBC’s latest investigation. For access to live and exclusive video from CNBC subscribe to CNBC PRO:

After thousands of customer service complaints, Coinbase started a new live phone support line. But numerous customers remain frustrated with the company after its latest effort to address their concerns.

Take Erick and Molly Richardson, for example.

The text message on Erick’s phone alarmed him so much that he pulled over to the side of the road. It was a sunny afternoon in July.

The retired attorney clicked on the message which said someone had logged into his account. He logged on, and soon got an email that his two-factor authentication had been changed, meaning his security settings had likely been compromised.

Then the nightmare got worse.

He and his wife, Molly, had saved nearly $1.1 million in cryptocurrencies. Suddenly, a fraudster started withdrawing all their bitcoin investments, about $700,000, as Erick watched. And there was nothing he could do.

“I was panicked. It was that feeling I haven’t had in a long time,” Erick said, acknowledging the text message was likely a phishing attack to obtain his account information.

The Richardsons could not call Coinbase for help because when the account takeover happened in July, the company only offered email support. A CNBC investigation in August found thousands of customers’ accounts were hacked and they were left hanging by the company, according to government records and interviews. Coinbase, which went public in April, has a market cap of more than $50 billion.

Since 2016, users have filed more than 12,000 complaints against Coinbase with the Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Better Business Bureau, mostly related to customer service, according to public records. An additional 1,500 complaints have been filed since August.

Other cryptocurrency exchanges have faced similar complaints, but less numerous than the complaints for Coinbase, which is the largest exchange in the U.S.

Coinbase, responding to criticism that customers couldn’t talk to anyone at the company, set up the live support line in August. However, dozens of customers whose accounts were hacked and drained told CNBC the so-called help didn’t result in their problem getting resolved.

In the Richardsons’ case, Erick said it took only about 20 minutes for the fraudsters to withdraw 21 Bitcoin in 110 different transactions.

Erick reported the theft to Coinbase, which locked the account. But he said for more than two months, no one reached out to help the couple get their money back or unlock the account.

“I still have no idea how it happened,” he said.

In September, the Richardsons called the new Coinbase phone support line. The agent told Erick that he didn’t have access to the case file and suggested he respond to the last email from Coinbase, which he had already answered. The 10-minute call ended not with a resolution, but with more frustration.

“It was a joke; it just makes me a little more angry. And there’s nobody who has any decision-making power at customer service,” Erick said. “They just can’t help out a lot. You know what Coinbase did two days after I got hacked? They sent me a customer survey and they asked me to rate their service.”

Coinbase customers around the country told similar stories to CNBC since the live phone support began.

For example, customer Marc Boulos said in an email that “the live support is only for accounts that are actively locked; since my account is no longer locked, I can’t even reach live support even if I try to do so.”

“The system recognizes that the account associated with my phone number is not locked and doesn’t let me reach live support,” Boulos wrote.

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