FBI issues warning after man almost loses $9,999 to Bitcoin scam

CLEVELAND — The Cuyahoga County Scam Squad and the FBI have joined forces to alert the public about a new twist on old scams. You may have heard of the grandparent’s scam, utility bill scam, and relative arrest scam, now there is a new way scammers are trying to get your money according to officials.

“Now scammers are asking you to pay in Bitcoin,” said Sheryl Harris, Director of the Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs.

The FBI warns once that happens, your cash is gone.

“Unfortunately, once that money is gone, it’s almost impossible to get it back so the best we can do is prevention and that’s why we’re trying to get the word out,” said FBI Special Agent Vicki Anderson.

Signs will soon be put up on bitcoin ATMs across the county. The signs are intended to make people think twice before going through with a transaction because they could be caught in a scam.

“The point of the signs is to just give people a chance to pause, like wait a minute,” said Harris. “The government isn’t going to ask you for bitcoin, they just won’t, the jail won’t ask you to pay in bitcoin and your utility company doesn’t accept bitcoin payments.”

News 5 spoke to a Shaker Heights man who was almost a victim.

“I got a call that sounded exactly like my son,” the man said. The caller on the other end pretending to be his son, hurt in a car accident, in jail, and in need of bond money.

The complex scam included the man and his wife following instructions to withdraw $9,000 in cash, going to a bitcoin ATM machine, using the QR code the scammer sent the couple, and depositing the cash. All while, the scammer stayed on the phone.

“The shopkeeper comes up and says ‘can I help you?’ I said we have to send money to an attorney with this machine and he’s like you’re getting scammed,” said the man.

Abe Hamed is a shopkeeper at Shaker Quality Foods.

“I just don’t like to see people taken advantage of,” Hamed said.

“I told him the story he was told by the attorney without him ever giving me an idea what he was doing,” said Hamed.

The couple called their son and confirmed it was a scam.

Hamed like many other store workers and owners have stepped in to help potential victims by stopping scammers and saving their money. Now, authorities are hoping the signs will help too.

If you or a loved one is a victim or potential victim, the FBI wants you to report it to www.ic3.gov.

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