Driving back, all Jacquelyn Halushka could think about was how weird it was to be feeding five $100 bills into a bitcoin ATM at a liquor store.
She had never been to the Star Market, a rural section of Joslyn Road in Lake Orion. Cash2BitcoinATM is next to the front window. It can also be found near some Bud Light Seltzer and regular ATMs.
“I never bought bitcoin before,”She spoke.
All Halushka, 27, wanted was a good paying job. They told her in August that the bitcoin task was part the process.
After a lengthy interview via a messaging application, Halushka received a job offer. She received a contract and later a $6,548 check was overnighted to her home in Oakland Township by Federal Express for her to buy Apple computer products to work remotely as an administrative assistant for a biopharmaceutical company.
She took a photo of the check to deposit it through her bank’s mobile app. Her bank made $500 available immediately.
And the scammers convinced her to drive to the bank to get five $100 bills and send that money via a crypto wallet to the equipment vendor. The bitcoin transfer was to prove her residency in the area, before any laptop was sent.
She eventually lost her $500 and realized that the job was a phony.
Unsuspecting clients are being directed to a Bitcoin ATM in the city or suburbs. Con artists then convince them how to convert this cash into cryptocurrency. Perhaps it begins with a story about having to pay a past due utility bill. Perhaps it’s someone pretending that they are from Apple Support. Maybe it’s an attractive prospect you met through an online dating site, who turns out be a cryptocad.
Maybe it’s part of a new attractive — but phony — job offer.
Scammers will tell you elaborate stories to convince your mind that walking up to a Bitcoin ATM and grabbing a handful of cash is the best thing to do.
A few years ago, it might have proved more difficult to set up this kind of scam because there were fewer kiosks around the country.
More than just 38,500 cryptocurrency kiosks,According to Coin ATM Radar data, there are now approximately 4,000 bitcoin ATMs in operation in the United States.
The ATM can be found at a liquor shop, a laundromat or a shopping center. mallA grocery store, gas station, or gas station. It’s as simple as putting cash on your gift card, but many people don’t realize that a bitcoin ATM can be just as useful for crooks.
“Crypto transfers can’t be reversed,”The Federal Trade Commission issued a warning. “Once the money’s gone, there’s no getting it back.”
A $350,000 Bitcoin scam
According to a report from the Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Office, a couple in northern Michigan lost $350,000 this summer in a shocking Bitcoin scam.
The couple — the man, 76, and the woman, 87 — had received a phone call that allegedly was from “Apple Support”It claimed to be an alert for scammers.
The couple was convinced that scammers posing as Apple needed to send them money, repeatedly.
According to reports, the couple used money from different banks to convert cash into cryptocurrency using CoinFlip. Some money was sent via bitcoin ATMs; the rest was through wire transfers, according to Lt. Brandon Brinks, who worked on the case for the Grand Traverse Sheriff’s Department.
“That money is gone,”In September, Brinks stated to the Free Press that there were no leads in the case.
CoinFlip has over 3,000 bitcoin ATMs throughout 48 states, including Michigan. The Chicago-based crypto company offers a variety of ways to buy digital currency, including bank wire transfers and credit cards.
CoinFlip spokesperson Chris Thatcher stated that the company “cannot discuss specific customer transactions due to privacy concerns.”
According to the company’s statement, CoinFlip is taken into consideration “strict preventative and proactive measures to protect our customers, including clear scam warnings that customers view prior to each transaction. We have 24-hour customer support and customers can call us to ask questions. Our customer support reps are trained to spot potential frauds and actively warn customers.”
This CoinFlip warning was online and I found it as part of its website. How to usePost a bitcoin ATM: “Have you been sent to this ATM to make a payment for ANYTHING, such as SSN fraud, taxes, utility bills, tickets, cars, equipment, money transfers, ransom, bail, eBay, Airbnb, or anything odd? STOP! You are being scammed, hang up and call us at 877-757-2646.”
Many claim they didn’t see any warnings at the kiosks.
Many people who have lost money claim that they didn’t see any warning signs when they walked up to a Bitcoin ATM.
Halushka claimed that she didn’t see any scam alerts at the bitcoin ATM where she had given over $500. I also didn’t see any when I visited the ATM at the liquor shop. I later visited the ATM at the metro Detroit gas station. I did not see any warning signs. The first few slides on the screen ask you how much crypto you want to buy — $1 to $999 or $1,000 to $2,999 or $3,000 to $15,000. Before you can do anything, you must submit a mobile number. I didn’t try to buy bitcoin.
Some outfits come with warnings at kiosks such as: “Do not send bitcoin to anyone you do not know for eBay or to buy a car. It is more than likely a scam.”
A QR code can be a clue to a scam
The bitcoin ATM scam features a few key elements: Imposters; a fake reason why you need to withdraw money; instructions on how to locate the ATM; and QR codes. Scammers claim to be reputable and tell you that you must withdraw money from your retirement account or bank.
The fraudsters will direct you to an ATM within your community, where you can deposit the cash into the kiosk.
According to Amy Nofziger of the AARP Fraud Watch Network’s director of victim support, the scammers will use you ZIP code to search online for a cryptocurrency ATM in your locality and then suggest that they take you there.
Nofziger stated that criminals often send a bitcoin QR code for their victims to use at the crypto machine. You’re transferring the money to the crooks by scanning that code.
“You’re essentially putting the money you put into your own wallet into their wallet and it’s gone,” Nofziger said.
Another warning: After your money is gone, the AARP warns, some crooks even claim to be able to recover the money you lost in a crypto scam — triggering yet another way to scam people out of more money.
$1B lost to crypto-scams
According to the Federal Trade Commission, tens of thousands of consumers reported losing more $1.3 billion in cryptocurrency scams between June 2022 and the beginning of 2021.
Consumers reported that they lost $653 million to crypto-fraud during the first half 2022. Comparatively, $680 million was reported as lost for all 2021.
FTC data indicates that investment-related crypto scams cost $785 million between January 2021 & June 22. $220 million was lost to crypto fraud in romance scams. $121 million went to fraudsters pretending to be business owners, $56 million to crooks pretending to be government officials and demanding digital currency. These figures are based fraud reportsAccording to the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network, cryptocurrency was used as a payment method.
The fraud rate reportsThe number of people who used crypto to pay for their purchases has exploded from 1,300 last year to 33,700 in 2018. In the first six months of 2022, cryptocurrency-related fraud reportsAlready over 25,000
Cryptocurrency scams rose to the second riskiest scam type in 2021 — online purchases were No. 1 — based on a reported increase in both exposure and susceptibility to the scam, according to a report by the Better Business Bureau. Crypto scams ranked No. 7 in 2020. More than 66% of victims reported losing their money to a scam involving crypto-related technology.
Many times, we see an investment-related scam where someone claims they can double your money and then scams us out of cash. Sometimes, a romance scam involves a new partner who offers tips on how you can get into crypto. Experts warn against mixing online dating and investment advice.
More: Zelle scams trick consumersMany people lose their money when scammers suggest that they use the Zelle app
The cash to cryptocurrency scams base their belief that we have heard about bitcoin but don’t know much about digital currency.
“Bitcoin is used by the fraudsters as many people are still unclear of how it works, so they believe the fraudster,”Deidre Davi, chief marketing officer of the Michigan State University Federal Credit Union, said that some members have been affected by bitcoin fraud.
Bitcoin ATMS are all over the place
The bitcoin machine could look similar to an ATM we have used for decades. Only some bitcoin ATMs are authorized to dispense cash.
Sam Elyias is the owner of the Star Market in Lake Orion. He said that he hasn’t had any complaints about the Cash2Bitcoin ATM at the Star Market, where he leases space. The machine is not his. The kiosk companies pitch space leases to small businesses as a way to increase foot-traffic and make passive income.
Elyias, who stopped talking to discuss the store’s well-stocked inventory in August, stated that he is also frustrated by scam callers, including one that claimed he owed DTE $500 for changing meters. He said that scammers wanted money for gift cards and suggested that Elyias go to Dollar General to get them. He figured it was a scam and didn’t lose any money.
Cash2Bitcoin lists 174 locations in Michigan (including gas stations and liquor stores) plus over 600 locations in other states.
Bitcoin of America has more than 2,500 BTM kiosks throughout 31 states, including Michigan.
Bitcoin Depot hopes to become public in 2023. The company also plans to list at the Nasdaq stock market. It operates more than 140 kiosks throughout Michigan, including in liquor stores and small markets in Detroit and Hamtramck. One is even listed in a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in Clinton Township. Bitcoin Depot claims that it has over 7,000 ATMs in the U.S.A and Canada.
According to Brandon Mintz (founder, president, and CEO of Bitcoin Depot), consumers must understand that crypto should only be sent to a wallet they control.
He stated that crypto is not trustworthy and does not rely on banks to facilitate transactions.
No intermediary can stop or reverse the transaction. “Once it’s in someone else’s wallet, there’s nothing you can do to recover your crypto,” Mintz stated.
Mintz pointed out that the company’s Bitcoin ATMs have scam warnings as well as those of its competitors.
Scammers seem way too convincing to be true for some
After the fact, the stories that scammers tell admittedly sound convoluted but crooks know how to get you under the ether and suspend critical thinking. Scammers can steal money easier by using hard-to-trace cryptocurrency.
According to the AARP fraud watch helpline, the number of consumer calls related to cryptocurrency scams has tripled over the past year.
One victim, who lost nearly $15,000 in a bitcoin ATM scam, received an email from a company about a charge he didn’t make, according to a recent complaint to the AARP Fraud Watch Network. The email listed a number that he could call and the person who answered the phone demanded access to his computer in order to process a refund.
The crooks gained access to the man’s bank account and falsely claimed they had “returned”He owes too much money as a part of the refund for the bad charge. The solution? He decided to deposit the extra money in a bitcoin ATM. He made two transactions, and lost almost $15,000.
After a wrong charge to her account, a woman was informed she was owed $790. But again, the scammers said they deposited too much — $7,900 supposedly in this case — and the woman ended up using a bitcoin machine as instructed by the scammers to send up to $5,200 to fix the phony problem, according to Nofziger. The woman lost her money.
Martha Cheresh was born in Detroit, but now resides in Santa Monica, California. She told the Free Press that she spent hours dealing with upsetting conversations after scammers made elaborate stories.
She received a call claiming to be from Amazon customer support. She answered because she had just purchased something at Amazon. Cheresh was not asked about her purchase by the caller, but she informed Cheresh that she had bought an iPhone and earbuds for more than $1,000. These were being sent to Albany in New York.
She knew it was something she couldn’t do.
As she received more information, the conversation quickly turned in another direction. She was transferred from one authority after another. She was charged with money laundering, involving $100,000. She was told she was facing drug trafficking charges. She spoke to a man pretending to be from the Drug Enforcement Administration, and was then transferred to an investigator from Treasury Department.
“I wasn’t questioning any of this at the time,”She said this, pointing to how real it all sounded. “I was just like putty.”
The whole process took approximately from that 11:30 a.m. first call to about 4 p.m., when she was at the Bitcoin ATM.
In order to fix to the problems, she was told to withdraw cash from the bank and go to a bitcoin ATM in her area, not far from a store where she shops. The idea was for her to open a government account to prove that she wasn’t involved with illegal activities.
She doesn’t recall seeing any alerts to consumers about possible scams on the ATM.
“I want to go to all the bitcoin machines and put a warning on the side,”Cheresh is a retired teacher.
Cheresh was robbed of $4,900
“They get you with fear,”She spoke. “Fear can make you foggy.”
Flint woman rebuilds savings after being scammed by bitcoin ATM
A Flint woman lost $4500 in April after fraudsters convinced her to withdraw cash from her bank, and then send the money via a Bitcoin ATM at a gas station.
Taylor Inman (26 years old) was initially told that an iPhone or MacBook Pro, which she doesn’t recall, was purchased using her credit for $995. Then, it was being shipped to Brooklyn in New York.
The conversation with the caller changed, and she was allegedly transferred to the U.S. Department of Treasury. She was told that her identity and Social Security number were used in a money laundering scheme.
“They had opened five different bank accounts around the U.S.,”She spoke.
And the scammers said that she had to send money through a Bitcoin ATM to clear her name. She was not going to lose a dime. It was part of a plan to freeze her credit and obtain a new Social Security Number. She was told she could not share her information with anyone.
The scammers instructed her where to find the Bitcoin ATM at a nearby gas station.
“I was putting the money in the machine thinking and hoping I was going to get it back,”Inman said “I didn’t think it was a scam. They are very convincing people. They already know what to say.”
Inman called her boyfriend and asked him to meet her at the ATM gasstation to bring her water. He tried to tell her that it was a scam. She called 911, and they confirmed that it was a scam. It was too late. The money was gone.
“I didn’t know that bitcoin is pretty much untraceable,”She spoke.
She packages car parts at NorthGate in Flint and has been working hard to rebuild her savings.
“The thing that people need to know is nobody is ever going to call you asking for money, saying you have to do this and this and this,”Inman said. “It’s just a scam.”
It can sound so formal even for a ‘techie’
Halushka’s contact who sent her the job offer was able to make it sound official, and even sent her an employment agreement in advance. It was reviewed by family and friends who said it looked like the real deal.
As a way to prove she actually lived in the area, the idea of sending money through a bitcoin ATM sounded appealing. You can’t send laptops and other equipment anywhere else.
She drove roughly 15 miles one way to the liquor store to use that bitcoin ATM. As part of the process, she was given a QR code. The representative from the company guided her through what appeared to be a complicated process to send bitcoin cash.
“They gave me step by step instructions,”Halushka stated.
She said good-bye to the five $100 bills and got back into her car, thinking that this was not right.
“The whole thing was very weird,”She spoke.
She was sure she thought she was sending $500 back.
But, it all didn’t add together. The job opening was just sent to her by email. The main job interview was conducted via RingCentral messaging app in approximately three hours. She didn’t speak with anyone until she asked. Even then, the phone conversation with the man was brief and his voice was somewhat muffled.
“The offer letter was for way more than I was expecting,”She said it, noting that it would make $45 an hour. Then again, she had her family members examine the offer and they seemed to approve.
This crypto wallet and bitcoin thing?
“Something was off,”She spoke.
When Halushka got home to her family’s house in Oakland Township, she decided to call the company, Radius Health — which was listed as Radius Healthcare on that first email that she received out of the blue.
Radius Health told her that there was no such job, and she was informed by phone. Halushka remembered the woman saying: “Don’t do anything else. That’s a scam. We’re not offering that position right now.”
You can find scam alerts online about Radius Healthcare by simply going to Google Radius Healthcare.
If the scammers had allowed it to continue, Halushka would have been out thousands of $. Given the $6,548 fake check, the scammers wanted her money to continue sending them more money. She became extremely aggressive and told them via text that she knew it was a scam.
“You are a theif,”The scammer incorrectly spelled thief. “You want to keep the money. I’ll f— you up big time.”
The bank eventually determined that the check that was sent was fake — and Halushka was out the $500 but that was all. The check was allegedly issued by Brandon Clark, Union, Mississippi. (Unbeknownst to many, this name appears online as part a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement narcotics probe in Mississippi.
“I had never heard of any employment scam up until now,”Halushka stated.
Halushka was scammed in early August. She still can’t believe she didn’t hear of how crooks track resumes on job sites, target those who need work, then use fake checks to trick people out of their money.
She didn’t know that a bitcoin ATM could cause problems; she knows of a relative that lost money when she bought Target gift cards in one scam.
“I consider myself a techie,”She spoke. “Every single year, they’re getting more and more crafty.”
She still shakes her head — and hopes that somehow she can get her money back — when she thinks of driving to a store in a neighborhood that she had never been in before.
“Why am I going to this sketchy liquor store?”She asked her long after she had spent all of her money.
ContactSusan Tompor via [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter@Tompor. Subscribe to our newsletter at freep.com/specialoffer. RSign up for our newsletter to learn more about business Business newsletter.