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Security & privacy

Protect your wallet: There’s a new twist on ATM and wire transfer scams

The holiday season is fast approaching, which means scammers and cybercriminals will be out in full force once again. Tap or click here for details on a holiday decoration scam already circulating. Every year around this time, the number of security threats skyrocket.

It’s not just gifts and decorations thieves are using as bait. They are now focusing on cryptocurrencies and digital wallets.

The FBI has seen a spike in a wide range of crimes that target all aspects of crypto exchanges, digital wallets and wire transfers. Keep reading for details on these dangerous threats.

Here’s the backstory

In a recent safety bulletin, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center warned users of cryptocurrencies to be aware of a new scam that’s spreading.

Here’s how it works. Criminals imitate legitimate businesses or government agencies and contact potential victims about outstanding fees due for things like lottery winnings. Of course, the claims are bogus. The criminals can also pose as family members, disguising their identity and asking for money.

Victims are directed to transfer crypto to the criminals through a physical cryptocurrency ATM or a QR code. This method is virtually untraceable as it auto-populates the recipient’s address. Once payment is made, the currency is instantly in the criminal’s account, and there is little to nothing that can be done to get it back.

Here are some other forms of scams that you should know about:

  • Family members asking for money through crypto payments
  • Government agencies requesting crypto for outstanding fees or fines
  • Romance scams where the criminal builds up a relationship to gain trust and eventually asks for crypto
  • Lottery schemes where the criminal claims you have won a big prize but need to pay a fee first to collect

Those are some things to watch for this holiday season. Thankfully there are ways to protect your finances.

What you can do about it

It is relatively easy to get swept up in a scam, especially if you don’t know what to look out for. Most think that it will never happen to them, but if you aren’t constantly vigilant, the slightest miscalculation can cost you your life savings.

Here are some tips from the FBI to protect yourself:

  • Never send payment to someone you have only spoken to online, even if you think you have established a relationship with them.
  • Don’t trust someone you have never met and scan a QR code or send payment via a physical cryptocurrency ATM.
  • If someone calls you claiming to represent a company or government agency, don’t give them personal information or send money. Instead, make contact through official phone numbers found on your credit/debit card or an official website.
  • Never respond to a caller from an unknown telephone number who identifies as someone you know and requests cryptocurrency.
  • Be cautious when someone claims they can only accept cryptocurrency and identifies as the government, law enforcement, a legal office, or utility company. These entities will likely not instruct you to wire funds, send checks, send money overseas, or make deposits into unknown individuals’ accounts..
  • Avoid cryptocurrency ATMs advertising anonymity and only require a phone number or e-mail. These cryptocurrency ATMs may be non-compliant with U.S. federal regulations and may facilitate money laundering. Directions to use cryptocurrency ATMs with these specific characteristics are a major indicator of fraud.
  • If you are using a cryptocurrency ATM and the ATM operator calls to explain that your transactions are consistent with fraud and advises you to stop sending money, you should immediately stop or cancel the transaction.

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