The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently sounded the alarm on tech support scams throughout the web and pointed out that cryptocurrency users are being increasingly targeted. Individual victims, according to the agency, often see losses “in the thousands of dollars.”
The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) sounded the alarm through a notice that warns users tech support fraud continues to be a “problematic and widespread scam.” In the notice, the agency reveals the IC3 received approximately 11,000 complaints related to tech support fraud in 2017.
Victims claimed to have lost nearly $15 million, which according to the notice represents an 86 percent increase in losses when compared to 2016. The majority of victims are located in the United States, although the agency notes it received complaints from victims in 85 different countries.
When it comes to cryptocurrencies, the IC3 notes that criminals usually pose as cryptocurrency exchange support staff and ask for access to victims’ devices, as with most tech support scams. Once the victim gives them access, they go on with their scheme:
“The fraudulent support asks for access to the victim’s virtual currency wallet and transfers the victim’s virtual currency to another wallet for temporary holding during maintenance. The virtual currency is never returned to the victim, and the criminal ceases all communication.”
Moreover, the agency added that scammers may also use their victims’ personal information and credit cards to purchase cryptocurrencies they will then send to wallets they control. Often, victims end up being tricked after contacting fake support numbers online in the “sponsored” section of search results.
Keeping funds safe
In order to avoid falling for cryptocurrency tech support scams, the agency advises users to be as careful as possible in dealing with contacts listed in the “sponsored” areas of search results, as these are likely boosted ads.
Moreover, victims are instructed to not give strangers access to their devices, ensure their software is updated, and resist the urge to act quickly if they’re confronted with someone trying to create a sense of urgency. Legitimate customer support teams, the agency noted, don’t initiate unsolicited contacts.
If dealing with a pop-up or a type of malware that locks victim’s screens, they are advised to immediately shut down their devices, as “victims who reported shutting down their device and waiting a short time to restart usually find the pop-up or screen lock has disappeared.”
When cryptocurrency users resist
Crypto enthusiasts are often tech-savvy and are now somewhat accustomed to scammers trying to get their funds. Scammers have been using phishing and social engineering tactics to get paid, and even managed to hijack verified Twitter accounts to try and trick users.
Recently, a bitcoiner had to face a scammer asking him for 0.15 BTC. He managed to persuade the scammer into dressing up as a raccoon, and had him forage through dumpsters in his neighborhood to get the funds. In the end, he wasn’t given anything.
These events show scammers are willing to go to great lengths to get paid. Whether they are pulling elaborate Twitter scams or foraging through dumpsters dressed as raccoons, they’re out there tying to take other people’s money.