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


CLEVELAND – The Cuyahoga County Scam Squad and the FBI have teamed up to bring a new twist to old scams to the public. You may have heard of grandparent scams, utility bill scams, and relative arrest scams. Now there is a new way scammers are trying to get your money, officials say.

“Now scammers are asking you to pay in bitcoin,” said Sheryl Harris, director of Cuyahoga County’s Department of Consumer Affairs.

The FBI is warning that as soon as this happens, your money will be gone.

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

Signs will soon be posted at Bitcoin ATMs across the county. The signs are meant to get people to think twice before finalizing a transaction as they could get involved in a scam.

“The point of the signs is to just give people the chance to take a break, wait about a minute,” Harris said. “The government won’t ask you for bitcoin, they just won’t, the prison won’t ask you to pay with bitcoin, and your utility won’t accept bitcoin payments.”

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

“I got a call that sounded just like my son,” said the man. The caller on the other end pretended to be his son, was injured in a car accident, in jail, and needed money on bonds.

The complex scam involved the man and his wife following instructions to withdraw $ 9,000 in cash, going to a Bitcoin ATM, using the QR code the scammer sent the couple, and depositing the funds. Meanwhile, the scammer stayed on the phone.

“The shopkeeper comes and says, ‘Can I help you? ‘I said we have to send money to a lawyer with this machine and he’s like you’re being cheated,’ the man said.

Abe Hamed is a shop owner at Shaker Quality Foods.

“I just don’t like it when people are taken advantage of,” said Hamed.

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

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

Hamed, like many other shop workers and owners, 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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