Wheat Ridge woman bilked out of $16K through PayPal, cryptocurrency scam

WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. (KDVR) – A Wheat Ridge woman fell victim to scammers taking advantage of the fact that she had a PayPal account, losing about $16,000 in the incident.

“At first he was embarrassed to tell anyone or come get help, but he fell victim to something that was very compelling to him,” Wheat Ridge Police Detective Reyna Johnson said.

Wheat Ridge Police provided FOX31 with the convincing-looking invoice the victim received via email. She thought it came from PayPal based on the brand name, but it came from a Google email account, which detectives said was the first red flag.

"The victim had a PayPal account, so he went and called the hotline on the bill," Johnson said. “And from there, the person who helped her was very kind, she convinced her and assured her that she would help her correct the problem.”

The second red flag is the phone number listed on the bill. Johnson said consumers should always verify that number with the company's helpline number on an official website.

For this victim, phone calls with this so-called customer service line evolved into text messages and calls from a different number with instructions on how to deposit installments of what the victim supposedly owed.

"All told, it's about $16,000," Johnson said. “She would go to her bank with instructions not to talk to anyone about it, not to talk to her bank about it, and then she would go to this ATM and deposit cash into the ATM.”

This was no ordinary ATM.

"She deposited at a bitcoin or Coinme kiosk, which are located throughout the metropolitan area," Johnson said. “The tricky thing about this is that she doesn't provide you with a legitimate Bitcoin wallet that the transaction will go to. It uses a phone number and then whoever has that phone number gets a code to use.

"I really can't think of a legitimate purpose for this," Johnson continued. "So if someone tries to deposit into a bitcoin or a Coinme ATM, or a kiosk, is what it's called, that's a big red flag."

Johnson said this victim's financial institution will not return her money because they say she withdrew it voluntarily. Now, detectives are trying to track down the scammer through the phone numbers they used for calls, text messages and deposits.

"The common thing with scams is to play on emotions in some way, this person was very convincing," Johnson said.

Wheat Ridge isn't the only department seeing more cryptocurrency-related scams. The Parker Police Department recently issued an alert about a dramatic increase, with victims reporting more than $800,000 in cryptocurrency-related scams in just the last six months.

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