US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued a warning against cybercriminals that are using Bitcoin ATMs and QR codes to defraud unsuspecting individuals. The FBI in a recently released Public Service Announcement (PSA), said that it has witnessed an increase in scammers directing victims to use physical cryptocurrency ATMs and digital QR codes to complete payment transactions.
“Such schemes include online impersonation schemes (scammer falsely identifies as a familiar entity such as the government, law enforcement, a legal office, or a utility company), romance schemes (scammer establishes an online relationship with a victim by creating a false sense of intimacy and dependency), and lottery schemes (scammer falsely convinces a victim that they have won an award and consequently demands the victim to pay lottery fees),” the PSA noted.
“The scammer then directs the victim to a physical cryptocurrency ATM to insert their money, purchase cryptocurrency, and use the provided QR code to auto-populate the recipient address. Often the scammer is in constant online communication with the victim and provides step-by-step instructions until the payment is completed.”
The agency also pointed out that the decentralised nature of cryptocurrency makes it difficult to recover the victim’s money, with much of the stolen funds being sent overseas right away instead of being tracked and verified by a bank.
“This differs from traditional bank transfers or wires where a payment transaction can remain pending for one to two days before settlement. It can also make law enforcement’s recovery of the funds difficult and can leave many victims with a financial loss.”
Meanwhile, the total crypto scams in 2020 globally amounted to around $10.52 billion (roughly Rs. 79,194 crore), research by Dark Web Link had revealed earlier in April. The same report had also highlighted that scams and frauds are a major problem that made for 67.8 percent of the total cryptocurrency crimes in 2020.