Fraudsters posing as debt collectors convinced four victims to deposit over $50,000 into a Bitcoin ATM in Australia’s southern county of Victoria, reported Sydney Morning Herald on Oct.5.
Police authorities stated that all victims were migrants and were bullied into paying up a hefty amount into the ATM, with the attackers warning of severe legal consequences if the amount was not paid.
The four victims were told to encash money from local bank accounts and deposit funds to a Bitcoin ATM in the Braybrook area of Melbourne. All victims were given a code prior to the deposit that contained the attacker’s bitcoin address.
The four crimes were not conducted together, and the victims’ accounts to local police prove the attackers utilized variations of their scam to extort funds. In a few narratives, fraudsters posing as a federal agent call the victims to confirm their debts, police said.
Crime investigation Detective Katherine Lehpamer believes the scam may have trapped many more victims, and urged citizens to provide their accounts in case of facing a similar incident.
“We believe that there are a number of victims out there who have not reported the matter for one reason or another, they may be here on visas or they are not aware that authorities would never tell them to deposit money into an ATM.”
The detective added the attackers seemed to target migrants and other vulnerable groups who aren’t aware of their civil rights, convincing the victims that their immigration status faces legal action if federal fines are unpaid.
She further stated that citizens must quickly notify authorities of such calls and inquire with local agents before proving banking details or personal information over the phone.
Meanwhile, scammers look to take advantage of Australia’s rising bitcoin interest. Melbourne alone has over 20 Bitcoin ATMs scattered throughout the city, which allows citizens to exchange cash for BTC instantly. Some ATMs have a “reverse” feature, allowing one to deposit BTC and encash AUD.
In May 2015, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s annual Scamwatch report stated citizens lost over $2 million in cryptocurrency and ICO scams, with over $1.2 million in Bitcoin scams alone.
Most victims were drawn to the sector after a surge in public interest for Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). Also, cryptocurrency trading scams run rampant and have grown substantially in the past 12 months, with Bitcoin investment schemes forming the second-most common type of investment fraud.
Cover Photo by Sean Colclough on Unsplash