NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – The Northwestern District Attorney’s office is warning residents of a scheme that has stolen thousands of dollars from three local families recently.
Spokesperson Laurie Loisel of the Northwestern District Attorney’s office said two residents in Franklin County and one resident in Hampshire County fell victim to a scheme that instructed them to send money through a cryptocurrency kiosks to protect their identity or other false pretenses.
Officials are asking residents to be aware of calls trying to claim that money must be sent to them immediately for any reason. The latest calls claim to be from a law enforcement officer that gives a name and badge number that are fake, or as a representative of a business like Paypal or Amazon.
Victims are told in these scheme calls that their identity has been compromised, their money is in jeopardy, warrants are out for their arrest, or they are in danger. They are then asked to withdraw money from their bank accounts and to go to a cryptocurrency kiosk at a convenience store to send the money to the suspect in order to resolve these issues.
Of those three local residents recently affected by this scheme, one person was defrauded of $14,000, another lost $9,000 and the third victim lost $9,800 as well as the suspect gaining access to their line of credit.
“Before last May, I hadn’t heard of any cryptocurrency scams involving kiosks inside convenience stores, and now I’m working with law enforcement on three separate investigations,” said First Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Steven Gagne. “Because these scammers so often target elderly residents, I urge families to talk to their elder loved ones about reaching out for help if they receive communications from anyone urgently asking for or demanding money.”
The callers try and prevent victims from contacting family or alerting bank officials. In one incident, a victim was told to tell bank officials the money was being withdrawn to pay for a discounted home improvement project. Another victim was told to not tell their spouse about the money because they “may have been involved in some way.”
Cryptocurrency kiosks are legitimate machines that allow customers to insert cash, convert it into cryptocurrency, and then place it into a digital wallet. However, schemers can use these kiosks to steal money from victims and not be traced.
These schemes typically target older residents but there has been an increase in younger people falling victim. The Federal Trade Commission reports that people between the age of 20 and 49 are three more times likely as than older people to report losing money to a cryptocurrency scheme.