Cryptocurrency scam claims approximately $60,000 from senior citizen, East Lyme police say

Cryptocurrency scam claims approximately $60,000 from senior citizen, East Lyme police say

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EAST LYME: Scammers running a cryptocurrency scheme stole approximately $60,000 from an elderly resident, according to local police.

While police receive reports of scams or attempted scams on an almost daily basis, Michael Finkelstein, chief of the East Lyme Police Department, said Monday that the sum represented the largest loss the department has seen to date.

“The East Lyme Police Department urges residents to always keep themselves and their accounts safe, and to use extreme caution when contacted and directed to provide funds to individuals,” Finkelstein said, and He then added: “It is our hope that continuing to shed light on these ongoing scams will help keep our residents safe.”

In late August, East Lyme police were contacted by a relative of the victim, identified only as a “senior citizen in the community,” according to Finkelstein. The relative informed police that the victim had received a call from a person alleging that “fraudulent charges” had appeared on the victim’s bank account, Finkelstein said.

The original caller transferred the victim to a second person who claimed to be an attorney, according to Finkelstein. Providing instructions for paying the alleged charges, Finkelstein said, the self-proclaimed lawyer told the victim that he withdraw a certain amount of money from the bank without telling anyone, including the police.

If bank staff ask about the reason for the withdrawals, the self-proclaimed attorney said, the victim should tell them the money would go toward buying a car or renovating an apartment, according to Finkelstein. Once in possession of the cash, the victim was directed to travel to a location in southeastern Connecticut to use a Bitcoin Depot machine to convert the cash to the Bitcoin cryptocurrency, Finkelstein said. The Bitcoin would then be loaded into a digital wallet, Finkelstein said.

The person claiming to be an attorney contacted the victim on three more occasions, according to Finkelstein. In total, Finkelstein said, roughly $60,000 was withdrawn and converted to Bitcoin.

East Lyme Police collaborated with the Connecticut State Police Organized Crime Investigative Task Force, the New London State Attorney’s Office and the US Department of Justice to investigate the scam, according to Finkelstein. Investigators were able to recover approximately $40,000 of the stolen funds, divided among multiple companies, but have yet to identify any suspect or his country of origin, Finkelstein said.

“In many of these cases, life savings are stolen and not recoverable,” Finkelstein said.

He advised people concerned about the validity of a call to contact family members or the police for help.

caroline.tien@hearst.com

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