FAIRFIELD, CT — A Fairfield woman recently lost $7,000 to a Bitcoin scam, prompting Fairfield Police Chief Robert Kalamaras and the department to warn residents to be wary of the scheme.
The theft was reported on Nov. 22 when the woman told authorities she “sent $7,000 in Bitcoin currency to an unknown account before realizing it was fraudulent,” police said.
According to Fairfield police, Bitcoin is a virtual encrypted currency and transactions are anonymous.
“The resident reported receiving a call from an unknown male claiming to work in the fraud department at an online retailer,” Kalamaras said. “He reported fraud on his account and told him he needed to transfer his money to a Bitcoin account. The resident was then ‘transferred’ to the Federal Trade Commission, where he spoke with an official who sent him pictures of their alleged credentials.”
According to Fairfield police, the victim received another call from a woman who identified herself as a Fairfield police officer, who advised the resident to do what she was asked to do. The number used by the fake officer spoofed the Fairfield Police Department number and has Fairfield Police caller ID.
“The callers then asked the resident to send a photo of their driver’s license and empty their bank accounts, pretending they were stolen,” Kalamaras said. “The resident then withdrew money from his accounts and deposited the money into a Bitcoin ATM at the location the callers gave him. The resident was also ordered to withdraw $20,000 from his retirement accounts.”
The resident was able to stop withdrawals from his retirement account and contacted the state Department of Motor Vehicles to change his license number. However, the authorities said that it is unlikely that the invested Bitcoins will ever be returned.
From the Fairfield Police announcement:
The Fairfield Police Department is warning residents who may receive any similar calls not to send any money and to report the call immediately to the Fairfield Police Department at 203-254-4800.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests the following four signs to help people recognize possible scams:
- Scammers pretend to be from an organization you know. They can use a real name, such as the Social Security Administration, IRS, or Medicare, or create an official-sounding name. Some pose as representatives of a business you know, such as a utility company, tech company, or even a charity seeking donations.
- Scammers say it’s a challenge or a reward. They might say you have a problem with the government, you owe money, a family member has an emergency, or your computer has a virus. Some scammers say there is a problem with one of your accounts and you need to verify some information. Others will lie and say you won money in the lottery or lottery but had to pay a fee to get it.
- Scammers force you to take immediate action. They may tell you to hang up so you can’t view their story. They can threaten to arrest you, sue you, take away your driver’s or business license, or deport you. They may say that your computer is about to crash.
- Scammers tell you to pay in a special way. They often insist that you pay by sending money through a money transfer company or putting money on a gift card and then giving them the number on the back. Some will send you a check (which will later turn out to be fake), tell you to deposit it, and then send them the money.
Fairfield Police also remind residents that legitimate organizations do not require payment by gift card, prepaid debit card or money order service. This should be a significant red flag. Prepaid debit cards and gift cards are not a legal method of payment for goods and services. They are untraceable and cannot be recovered once the funds have been transferred.
In addition, residents are reminded to never give out personal information, especially Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers.
The FTC also recommends that if you receive an email or text message from a company you do business with and think it’s real, it’s best not to click on any links. Instead, contact them using a website you know is trustworthy or look up their phone number. Do not call the number they give you or the caller’s number.
Report any suspected fraud or scams at ftc.gov/complaint or call toll-free: 1-877-FTC-HELP. For more information about scams, visit the Federal Trade Commission website or state website.