- Scammers impersonate government officials
- They coerce victims to pay in cryptocurrency or gift cards
- Police have advised the public to hang up when in doubt
The New York Police Department (NYPD) has announced a new plan to increase awareness of crypto phone scams. The scammers are impersonating government agencies and asking people to pay them in Bitcoin, prepaid gift cards, and bank wire transfers.
Sophisticated scammers turning to crypto
According to a press release by NYPD, there has been an increase of scammers pretending to be officials from the Social Security Administration in New York City and some victims have gone into panic and lost thousands of dollars after receiving the calls. According to the police, the NYPD has received over 200 complaints so far this year with losses totaling more than $2 million in comparison with only three similar complaints in 2018. NYPD Chief of community affairs Nilda Hoffman stated:
“Sophisticated phone scams use the trust victims have in their own governmental and law enforcement agencies against them […] victims of this type of phone scam are not limited to senior citizens – these criminals are targeting every strata of society and every demographic is vulnerable.”
Fake caller ID
The victims have been receiving phone calls from people who identify themselves as agents of the Social Security Administration or other government agencies, often intimidating them into compliance. According to the police statement, the scammers have technologies that enable them to manipulate caller ID to display the number of the Social Security Administration, related agencies and NYPD precincts. The scammers have even gone so as far as impersonating officers assigned to specific precincts.
The police would like members of the public to know that government agencies will contact no one to ask them to submit money or personal information over the phone. The NYPD Press release tells the public the surefire Red Flag is a request for money in the form of cryptocurrency, gift cards or bank wire transfers. The police are doing their best to increase awareness about this kind of crime and other tricks that might be used in these fraudulent transactions as a way of combating this crime. Hoffman advises:
“The NYPD is committed to working closely with our partners in the financial industries and will not rest until we bring those responsible for these crimes accountable […] if you even suspect a call to be fraudulent, don’t take a chance; just hang up.”
Phone scamming has become a widespread problem not only in the US but different parts of the world as well. An online publication last month found that criminals behind one scam were posing as police officers and targeted victims in California while the UK’s national Fraud Helpline, Action Fraud stated that victims in the UK had lost over $19 million in 12 months alone targeting 1200 victims. BR Reported in November 2018 that one crypto scam was targeting Australian taxpayers with Bitcoin ATM withdrawals. The best way to defeat these criminals is to ignore them and to never, ever, pay up.