Crypto Scams via ATMs, QR Codes Multiplying in US, FBI Issues Public Warning

The FBI says scammers target victims by pretending to be government officials, potential romantic partners, and even lottery masters.

Crypto Scams via ATMs, QR Codes Multiplying in US, FBI Issues Public Warning

Photo Credit: FBI

The FBI has observed a sharp rise in crypto scams in the US

  • FBI has warned of rising cryptocurrency-related frauds in the US
  • ATMs and QR codes are being misused for facilitating crypto scams
  • As official public service announcement has been released in the US

US' Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued a warning against the rising number of crypto scams emerging in the US. In a recently released Public Service Announcement (PSA), the FBI said that scammers are making innocent people use physical cryptocurrency ATMs and digital QR Codes to complete malicious transactions. Despite the US still working on regulating the crypto space, Bitcoin ATMs are beginning to crop up in public places in the US as well as in other countries. With chains like AMC Theatres enabling crypto payments for tickets, transacting via QR Codes is also becoming a regular practice in the US.

The federal agency has advised people to not entertain crypto-payment requests from unidentified callers while also suggesting them to refrain from providing any personal information on calls.

Schemes related to online impersonations of government officials, romance-cons, and lottery scams have been some of the ways in which nefarious crypto-scammers have targeted non-suspecting people.

“The scammer often requests payment from the victim and may direct the victim to withdraw money from the victim's financial accounts, such as investment or retirement accounts. The scammers provide a QR code associated with the scammer's cryptocurrency wallet for the victim to use during the transaction," the FBI explained in its warning. "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".

Crypto owners have also been advised to avoid using ATM machines that advertise “anonymity” and allow transactions only on the basis of phone numbers and email IDs.

“These cryptocurrency ATMs may be non-compliant with US federal regulations and may facilitate money laundering. Instructions to use cryptocurrency ATMs with these specific characteristics are a significant indicator of fraud,” the FBI noted.

Bitcoin ATMs are becoming a thing in the US as well as other nations with an increase in adoption. In October, Walmart announced the installation of 200 Bitcoin ATMs in select store branches located across the US to allow visitors to purchase the crypto coin. In El Salvador for instance, Bitcoin ATMs allow people to transact in the crypto token or convert it to fiat.

As per the FBI, scammers try to keep all the communication online in order to conceal their real identities while they guide their victims step-by-step into their con.

The federal investigative agency has further advised people to not wire any funds to strangers, even if they say they are government officials or lawmakers.

“These entities will likely not instruct you to wire funds, send checks, send money overseas, or make deposits into unknown individuals' accounts,” as per the PSA.

Since cryptocurrencies are decentralised in nature, recovering the amount locked in them is hard to recover. The scammers get their crypto payments instantly, after which they immediately deposit the money in their other accounts, usually overseas. The victim is left with nothing but financial losses.

Total crypto crimes in 2020 amounted to around $10.52 billion (roughly Rs. 79,194 crore), a report had revealed earlier in April.

The same report had also highlighted that scams and frauds that have plagued the crypto space are a major problem that made for 67.8 percent of the total cryptocurrency crimes in 2020.

Interested in cryptocurrency? We discuss all things crypto with WazirX CEO Nischal Shetty and WeekendInvesting founder Alok Jain on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.Cryptocurrency is an unregulated digital currency, not a legal tender and subject to market risks. The information provided in the article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice, trading advice or any other advice or recommendation of any sort offered or endorsed by NDTV. NDTV shall not be responsible for any loss arising from any investment based on any perceived recommendation, forecast or any other information contained in the article. 
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Radhika Parashar
Radhika Parashar is a senior correspondent for Gadgets 360. She has been reporting on tech and telecom for the last three years now and will be focussing on writing about all things crypto. Besides this, she is a major sitcom nerd and often replies in Chandler Bing and Michael Scott references. For tips or queries you could reach out to her at More
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