Bitcoin scam costs local woman $30K

Victim was lured into a scheme via computer malware, deposited money into Bitcoin Depot ATM at gas station.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

A 76-year-old Oxford woman was scammed out of $30,000 last week by individuals claiming to be Microsoft customer service and an agent of the “Federal Government Fraud Department.”

According to an Oxford Police report, the woman was lured into the scheme when her laptop acted abnormally — frozen, screen flashing and making a loud noise. At the bottom of the screen was what appeared to be a Microsoft logo and a phone number attached to it. The woman told police she called the number and reached a man who claimed he could help her repair her computer.

A short time later, she said she was contacted by another man claiming to be from the non-existent Federal Government Fraud Department. He told the woman that her bank account had two fraudulent deposits of $15,000 and $23,000, which he advised needed to be taken to the nearest Bitcoin Depot ATM, a machine that takes cash deposits and purchases the popular cryptocurrency Bitcoin before transferring it, untraceably, to an anonymous “digital wallet.”

The woman withdrew $15,000 from her bank and deposited it at the Bitcoin Depot ATM at the Circle K at 11 N. College Ave. in Oxford.

The fake agent called her again the next day, advising her to take $23,000 out of her account this time and deposit it into the Bitcoin Depot ATM for safekeeping. The woman’s unspecified bank only allowed her to withdraw another $15,000. The woman told police that she felt uncomfortable with making the ATM deposit, so she took it to her home. But, as time wore on, she decided to make the deposit again.

In total, the woman deposited $30,000 into the Bitcoin Depot ATM after being advised under false pretenses. She’s working with her bank to see what options are available to her.

The Journal-News spoke with a customer service representative at Bitcoin Depot who said there’s no way to trace where the purchased Bitcoin went. Though the representative had no knowledge of this exact case, she said the only action the company can take in cases of fraud is to deactivate the victim’s account and flag the digital wallet of the recipient to make sure no more Bitcoin can be transferred to that wallet. They can, however, return the ATM fee to the victim.

Bitcoin Depot has more than 7,000 ATMs across the country, including 11 in Butler County. The customer service representative said fraud occurs daily.

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