INDIANA COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — State police are warning people that they’ve received several reports of Bitcoin and gift card-related scams, causing residents and businesses to lose thousands of dollars.
Generally, these victims are contacted via a phone call or text message and are provided with a ruse, leading them to either purchase gift cards or withdraw cash and deposit it into a nearby Bitcoin ATM, troopers in Indiana said.
Specifically, two Indiana County residents sustained a combined loss of around $40,000 after they were contacted and advised to withdraw cash and deposit it into a Bitcoin ATM in Westmoreland County in October 2021. In July, a business in White Township lost $14,650 after an employee was contacted and told to deposit cash into a Bitcoin ATM in Indiana Borough.
“Bitcoin ATM kiosks are machines which are connected to the Internet, allowing the insertion of cash or a credit card in exchange for Bitcoin,” according to Bitcoin.com. “They look like traditional ATMs, but they do not connect to a bank account and instead connect the customer directly to a Bitcoin exchange for a localized and convenient way to purchase Bitcoin in person. Common locations for Bitcoin ATMs are inside of a retail store, shop, tavern, restaurant, mall or airport.”
Since January, it’s reported numerous Indiana County residents have lost money ranging from $100 to $20,000. In each of these cases, the victims were instructed to purchase gift cards and then provide the scammer with the gift card numbers(s).
State police are strongly encouraging residents and business owners to discuss these scams with family members and employees. When in doubt, they said to always verify the legitimacy of suspicious phone calls, text messages, and emails before complying with any request or demand for money.
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For help with determining whether something may be a scam, residents and businesses are encouraged to contact their financial institution, local law enforcement agency or the Indiana County District Attorney’s Office. Senior residents of Indiana County area are also encouraged to contact Aging Services, Inc. at 724-349-4500 for further guidance.
More tips can also be found on the United States Federal Trade Commission’s website.