April 25, 2024

Fairfax police again sound alarm on cryptocurrency scams

Detectives and investigators from the Fairfax County Police Department’s Financial Crimes Division warn local residents that Bitcoin and crypto-related scams are being reported within the county, with most of the victims being elderly. County police wish to raise awareness and provide prevention tips to safeguard residents against falling victim to these fraudulent activities.

Since the end of October, investigators have observed a trend in scams involving cryptocurrency. Criminals are exploiting people, particularly the elderly, into depositing money into crypto ATMs and defrauding them of their money. Recent cases occurred on:

• Oct. 13, when a 71-year-old victim was scammed into depositing $14,900 into a crypto ATM.

• Nov. 15, when a 23-year-old victim was scammed into depositing $1,000 into a crypto ATM. The same thing happened that day with a 76-year-old victim, who was convinced to deposit $21,000 into a crypto ATM.

• Nov. 16, when scammers convinced a 73-year-old victim to deposit $17,900 into a crypto ATM.

• Nov. 20, when a 72-year-old victim was scammed into depositing $15,000 into a crypto ATM.

• Nov. 30, when an 86-year-old victim was scammed by inserting a bank card into ATM, resulting in $25,000 being stolen.

• Dec. 4, when two victims, ages 78 and 85, were scammed into depositing $15,000 each into a crypto ATM.

• Dec. 6, when an 80-year-old victim’s Bitcoin ATM was broken into. Nothing was stolen in this case, police said.

• Dec. 8, when a 70-year-old victim was convinced to deposit $12,000 into a crypto ATM.

• Dec. 10, when a 56-year-old victim was scammed into depositing $8,000 into a crypto ATM.

These scams begin when scammers call victims and pose as legitimate entities, businesses or even government agencies. Scammers then use varying deceptions to convince victims into depositing funds into a crypto ATM or converting money into gift cards or other forms of payments that are difficult to trace or recover. These criminals often prey on the elderly, taking advantage of their trust and lack of familiarity with the digital-currency landscape.

Fairfax County police urge community members, particularly seniors, to remain vigilant and follow these tips to protect themselves:

• Verify caller identities: Always confirm the identity of the person or organization contacting you, especially if they request personal information or financial transactions. Apple, Microsoft, Norton, MacAfee, eBay, PayPal, Amazon or Google will never call you on the phone and ask for any kind of payment. It is a good idea to hang up and call the institution using their known contact information from official Websites.

• Be skeptical of unsolicited calls: Anyone who calls you on the phone asking for payments with gift cards of any kind (Greendot, iTunes, Google Play, Target, Walmart etc.) should be considered suspicious and it is likely a scam. Other fraud indicators are requests for money through wire transfers (MoneyGram, Western Union, Walmart to Walmart, Zelle, Venmo, CashApp).

• Consult with family or friends: Before making any financial decisions, especially those involving large sums or unfamiliar technologies, consult with trusted family members or friends.

• Don’t share personal information: Never share personal or financial information over the phone unless you initiated the call and are certain of the recipient’s legitimacy.

• Use trusted platforms: When dealing with Bitcoin or other digital currencies, use reputable and well-established platforms for transactions.

Law-enforcement agencies will never call you on the phone and ask you to pay money to avoid arrest or post a bond.  Other common scams include notices of missing jury duty or a federal agent calling you and saying that your name and identity have been discovered as being involved in criminal activity or money laundering.  The FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Social Security Administration, Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Federal Trade Commission, Internal Revenue Service or local police agencies will never call you on the phone and ask for money for any reason.

Never give anyone “remote” access into your computer. Scammers pretending to be from Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Google or other technological companies will ask for remote access to your computer to “fix” an issue or attempt to refund money to you for an alleged fraud charge.  Do not allow remote computer access, as this is a scam. Scammers will claim they are going to refund money to your bank account, but instead they will steal it.

If you have been a victim of a financial crime, contact Fairfax County police by filing a report through the department’s Financial Crimes Online Reporting Website at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/Police_FiCOR. If you are unable to file a report on the computer, call the non-emergency line at (703) 691-2131 to have an officer assist you with making a FiCOR report.

For more information about elder fraud, visit the Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crimes Website at ovc.ojp.gov. If you have been a victim of elder fraud and reside outside of Fairfax County, you can call the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 1 (833) 372-8311.

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