Fairfax County Warns Residents of Escalating Crypto ATM Scams

Fairfax County Warns Residents of Escalating Crypto ATM Scams
Cover Image Source: An employee at a Bitcoin ATM | Getty Images | Photo by Carlos Alvarez

In a disturbing trend, scammers are continuing to exploit unsuspecting victims in Fairfax County, Virginia, using a combination of scam calls, gift cards, and cryptocurrency ATMs. Fairfax County police have issued a warning to residents, urging them to remain vigilant and report any encountered scams promptly.

A cryptocurrency ATM setup in a convenience store in Miami, Florida | Getty Images | Photo by Raedle
Image Source: A cryptocurrency ATM setup in a convenience store in Miami, Florida | Getty Images | Photo by Raedle

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The fraudulent scheme typically involves victims receiving calls from unknown numbers posing as the fraud department of a bank or other business. Perpetrators employ a sense of urgency, pressuring individuals to act immediately to avoid arrest or further fraudulent activities. Sergeant Jacob Pearce expressed concern, stating, "They're taking advantage of people's fear." 

Once engaged, victims are directed to purchase gift cards and make deposits in cryptocurrency ATMs, rendering payments challenging to trace.



 

Scammers have even gone as far as impersonating police officers to manipulate victims into parting with their money. While the community was alerted of these schemes in December, the police have since observed a surge in cases, with over a dozen reported incidents. Most incidents involve transactions exceeding $10,000, although Fairfax County police reported that a victim in January was scammed of $31,100.

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Sergeant Pearce provided essential advice to potential victims, emphasizing, "Hang up, find the legitimate number for that institution, or go through your banking app or the legitimate website and then contact their fraud department that way."

Image Source: Pexels | Karolina Grabowska
Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Karolina Grabowska

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"Legitimate companies may leave a voicemail or follow up with a text message or an email if there is fraudulent activity going on in one of your financial institutions," Pearce said. He stressed that individuals should never feel pressured to share personal or banking information over the phone.

For individuals unfortunate enough to be ensnared by such scams, even after depositing money or divulging prepaid gift card details, Fairfax County's Financial Crimes Unit strongly urges them to file an online report immediately.

People use bank ATM
Image Source: People use bank ATMs next to a Bitcoin ATM at a shopping mall | Getty Images | Photo by Chris McGrath

The proliferation of Bitcoin ATMs is giving scammers a new tool to exploit unsuspecting victims, leading to an increase in fraud cases. In a recent incident, a San Jose resident fell victim to a sophisticated scam that involved impersonation, manipulation, and a Bitcoin ATM transaction resulting in a loss of $15,000

California, in response to the surge in crypto-related scams, has enacted Senate Bill 401, which places restrictions on cryptocurrency ATM transactions. From January 2024, individuals have been limited to $1,000 in transactions per day. The law also prohibits Bitcoin ATM operators from charging fees higher than $5 or 15% of the transaction amount, beginning in 2025.

A visual representation of digital cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin, Ripple, Ethernum, Dash, Monero and Litecoin | Getty Images | Photo Illustration by Chesnot
Image Source: A visual representation of digital cryptocurrencies | Getty Images | Photo Illustration by Chesnot

The convenience of Bitcoin ATMs, located in places like convenience stores and gas stations, has made them an attractive option for quick cash-to-crypto transactions. However, scammers are exploiting this accessibility to manipulate victims into making substantial and untraceable payments.

The rise of cryptocurrency-related scams has prompted concerns, with the Federal Trade Commission reporting that over 46,000 people lost over $1 billion to crypto scams since 2021.

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