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Novel scam employs QR codes and crypto ATMs


Scammers impersonate government agencies, utility companies, or law enforcement to lure victims into sending their money.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has noted a novel crypto payment scam. While there‘s nothing new in fraudsters taking payments in crypto, FTC warns that threat actors now try to abuse cryptocurrency ATMs.

Impersonators might imitate a government agency, take on romance scam tactics, or claim a victim has won a lottery. Whichever way the scam goes, eventually, the person who initiated the contact will ask for money.

“If you believe the story they tell and you seem willing to engage, they’ll stay on the phone to direct you to withdraw money from your bank, investment, or retirement accounts,“ FTC warns.

Committed fraudsters will then talk the victim all the way to a crypto ATM that allows purchasing one of many popular cryptocurrencies.

Either before or after visiting a crypto ATM, scammers provide the target with a QR code with their wallet address embedded in it.

Once unsuspecting victims scan the code, they transfer the cryptocurrency to the perpetrator. Once that step is completed, fraudsters have achieved their goal.

FTC warns that nobody from the government, law enforcement, utility company, or prize promoter will ever tell you to pay them with cryptocurrency.

“If someone does, it’s a scam, every time. Any unexpected tweet, text, email, call, or social media message — particularly from someone you don’t know — asking you to pay them in advance for something, including with cryptocurrency, is a scam,” claims the Commission.

An ‘epidemic’ of fraud

Scams and phishing attacks remain two simple and extremely effective ways for criminals to steal funds and data. According to the FTC, consumers reported losing more than $3.3 billion in 2020 alone, up from $1.8 billion in 2019.

Nearly $1.2 billion of losses reported last year were due to imposter scams, while online shopping accounted for about $246 million in reported losses from consumers.

Just over a third of all consumers who filed a fraud report with the FTC—34 percent—reported losing money, up from just 23 percent in 2019.

It’s highly unlikely that once the data for 2021 is published, the upward trend will show any signs of slowing.

For example, during the first nine months of 2021, 40,000 people reported losing a whopping $148 million in gift cards to scammers. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), these are staggering numbers that have increased each year for the past several years.

Another recent report by T-Mobile claims that the number of scam calls hit a record high this year with a staggering 21 billion scam calls, a 116% increase from 9.8 billion registered last year.


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