Fake California Cop Racket Targets Victims in Bitcoin Phone Scam
A notice on the official website for the City of Berkeley police department warns residents of phone scams involving Bitcoin. Calling them “cyber-enabled fraud crime,” the post talks about a woman who scammers attempted to victimize via telephone – even calling her from the number 911. The scammer claimed she was under investigation for drug trafficking and should give all the money in her bank account to avoid arrest. The scammer wanted Bitcoin.
SCAMMERS IMPERSONATE BERKELEY POLICE
Just this past Thursday, a young woman received a call from a person claiming to be an “Officer Neil Matthew” with Berkeley Police (the Berkeley Police Department does not have an Officer Neil Matthew). According to the caller id, the call came from 510-981-5900 (BPD’s listed non-emergency number). The scammer demanded that the woman send him all of the money (to be paid with bitcoin) in her bank account because she was under investigation for drug trafficking and fraudulent activities. The scammer repeatedly called the woman from multiple numbers—including 911. Scammers have figured out ways to mask their own telephone numbers with official numbers on your caller id.
The post doesn’t talk about the outcome of that case, but we assume the woman eventually contacted the real authorities to ensure it was all a fraud. The situation brings to mind similar scams, like the recent rash of spear-phishing attacks threatening to release video of a person enjoying pornography.
SCAMMING: A $7+ BILLION INDUSTRY
According to the FBI, the increase in popularity of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has coincided with an increase in scams that demand payment in them. Scammers most often target people over the age of 50.
People have paid out over $7 billion since 2014, and the agency has received over 1.5 million complaints. This a considerable portion of the American population, which was calculated at just over 320 million in 2016.
The total of scams conducted with cryptocurrencies would be a difficult number to compute. There have been such figures published, but ultimately many things are left out such as crimes which go unreported. Ransomware and old-fashioned social engineering are the most common attempts to extort people. Ransomware has declined largely thanks to anti-virus software that slows its spread, but people are still occasionally found attempting to run these tired scams.
The best thing to do is have a back-up of your files to avoid paying any ransoms as the Boston public defenders did. However, they were offline for weeks.