Essex DA Tucker Warns Residents of Rising Cryptocurrency Schemes

Becky Christie relates how she lost $13,000 after being scammed. (Video capture.)

With cryptocurrency scams becoming more prevalent, Essex County District Attorney Paul F. Tucker is advising citizens to beware of schemes that involve payments in cryptocurrencies at special ATMs.

In a public service announcement, Tucker presents an unnamed victim’s own story where the woman relates how she received a pop-up message on her laptop, instructing her to call Microsoft. She ultimately lost $13,000 after being told to make a deposit at a cryptocurrency ATM. Tucker says in his public service announcement she is not alone.

“In Essex County, in the last calendar year 2023, we estimate that we’ve had about $10 million worth of reported fraud due to all different types of schemes,” says Tucker in his video

Cryptocurrency ATMs—also referred to as “crypto kiosks,” “bitcoin ATMs” or “BTMs”—look like traditional ATMs but allow customers to purchase cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, litecoin, dogecoin and Ethereum, using cash, debit or credit cards or bank transfers. With high transaction fees, cryptocurrency ATMs convert the user’s physical cash into cryptocurrency and send it to the user’s “digital wallet.”

Transactions are instantaneous, and criminals can immediately transfer payments, preventing recovery of the funds. These scams take various forms, including romance, lottery and impersonation schemes. Warning signs of a scam include directions to make financial transactions at a cryptocurrency ATM while still on the telephone with the scammer, demands to keep the nature of the transaction secret from bank tellers, law enforcement and others, and insistence that cryptocurrency is the only form of acceptable payment. Tucker warns residents should keep in mind legitimate businesses and entities would not mandate cryptocurrency as their only form of payment.

“And so many people say, ‘well I wouldn’t fall for that.’ And my reply is: ‘You would be surprised at the people who have been victimized.’”

Tucker encourages citizens to learn the warning signs of a scam, be alert and contact their local police department if a scam has taken place.

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