Scammers Use Cryptocurrency to Lure Victims

Fraudsters are always looking for new ways to steal your money. As contactless payments continue to be favored       by consumers, it’s becoming easier for thieves to launder cash through the complex cryptocurrency ecosystem. Unfortunately, people of all ages, including the elderly right here in Lee County, are being victimized by criminals through cryptocurrency-related fraud schemes.  

You’ve likely heard of Bitcoin, the first cryptocurrency to go mainstream, but what exactly is this relatively new phenomenon that is growing so fast?

Cryptocurrency is a digital payment system that does not rely on banks to verify transactions. It’s a peer-to-peer system that can enable anyone anywhere to send and receive payments.  From a user perspective, it is pretty much like cash for the Internet; however, instead of utilizing physical cash, cryptocurrency payments exist as digital entries to an online database that describe specific transactions. When you transfer cryptocurrency funds, the transactions are recorded in a public ledger. You store your cryptocurrency in a digital wallet.

As developments in cryptocurrency technology continue to rise, more and more businesses are accepting it as payment. Not only can you find numerous virtual asset service providers online, but thousands of cryptocurrency kiosks are now located throughout the world. These ATMS are easily exploited by criminals to facilitate their schemes.

Over the last several months, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office fraud line has seen an increase in complaints from residents about scams involving black mail attempts, work from home schemes and investment scams. The one thing in common with these scams is the request for victims to make payment through Bitcoin.

Although there are legitimate charities, investment platforms, and e-commerce sites that accept payment in cryptocurrency, pressure to use a virtual currency should be considered a significant red flag.

Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno provides these tips to help you better protect yourself from fraud:

  • Contact the Lee County Sheriff’s Office at 239-477-1000 before paying out blackmail and/or extortion attempts and before converting your money into cryptocurrency.
  • Do not use your personal bank accounts for work-from-home business-related activity or provide your bank account information to someone who is not named on the account.
  • Conduct extensive research on potential investment opportunities.

For more information about cryptocurrency schemes, money laundering and frauds, contact the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov. If you believe you have been victimized, please contact the Sheriff’s Office fraud line at 239-258-3292.