Australian police announced that four people have lost AUD 50,000 ($35,335) in a Bitcoin scam. Police statements indicate that the victims of the scam were targeted because of their immigration status in the country.
Quite how the people were tricked into the scam is beyond this author. According to Australian outlet The Herald Sun, all four of the victims were contacted by phone.
Scammers then told them that they owed money in taxes and that failure to pay the money would result in jail time. In order to pay the money back, they first had to go and withdraw it in cash – remember that time you paid your taxes in cash? Me neither.
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They were then told to go to a Bitcoin ATM and pay the cash they had withdrawn into it. That cash would be used to buy Bitcoin which would then be transferred to the scammers. Of course, as Bitcoin is almost untraceable, they will have had no idea who they were transferring the money too.
Bitcoin-ing the Immigrants
Personally, I’d love to speak to the scammers. Anyone capable of convincing someone to pay their taxes in cash via a Bitcoin ATM must have both serious ‘cajones’ and almost supernatural charm.
Having said this, desperation may have played a role. As noted, Australian police said the scammers were targeting immigrants. It appears that they said a failure to pay could not only result in prison time but jeopardize their immigration status in Australia. Fear of deportation or a similar punishment may be why other victims haven’t come forward.
“We believe that there are a number of victims out there who have not reported the matter for one reason or another,” said Maribyrnong Acting Detective Sergeant Katherine Lehpamer. “They may be here on visas or they are not aware that authorities would never tell them to deposit money into an ATM,” she added.