FBI: Watch Out for Fake Cryptocurrency Exchange ‘Support Staff’

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center has noted a drastic increase in online crime, with crypto holders being targeted by dodgy helplines and tech support centers.

Most companies want to keep the customers happy. Satisfied clients are more likely to be loyal and to refer the given company to their friends and family. One way that businesses try to keep their clientele happy is through support contact centers. However, criminals are looking at these helplines as a way to scam unsuspecting victims.

A multi-million-dollar fraud industry

According to a public service announcement (PSA) by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received about 11,000 complaints of some kind of tech support fraud in last year alone.

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These cases resulted in losses of nearly $15 million, an 86% increase compared to 2016 numbers. These complaints were not just received in the US either, the IC3 had claims from over 85 countries.

Last year also saw a massive increase in cryptocurrency awareness and trading. Along with this interest, came many new players into the market, a fact that these fraudsters were well aware of.

How it works

Crypto holders could contact these supposed support centers, or crypto exchanges, for help based on contact details found on the web. The IC3 noted that criminals actually pay to have their fraudulent company show up higher in web search results as in most cases, people are more likely to click on companies that are listed at the top.

On-screen pop-up messages are also used to try and encourage victims to call the supposed tech support helpline. These messages could state that a virus has been identified on the victim’s computer or laptop and that the dodgy call center can help. A locked screen is another way to get victims to call the fake helpline.

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The IC3 states that locked screens or pop-ups can also occur when these victims unwittingly type in an incorrect web address through typosquattting or URL hijacking.

According to the PSA, these scammers could sometimes pose as tech support for online crypto exchanges. They would then request access to their victims’ virtual wallets before transferring their digital currencies out of the wallets. A supposed reason for this is that the site is undergoing maintenance and their clients’ crypto needs to be temporarily moved. Of course, the fraudsters then cease all communication after they get the crypto.

Another scenario could be that the criminal has access to the victim’s credit card information and uses it to purchase cryptocurrencies for themselves. They could also have access to victims’ phones, tablets or other devices, allowing them to transfer the victims’ own crypto to an account that is held by the fraudster.

Possible preventative measures

In the case of locked screens or pop-ups, the IC3 suggests immediately shutting down the device. Do not press begin, do not collect $200, just shut it down.

Also, everyone should ensure that they have solid passwords and that they keep them a secret. Anyone who uses the web should keep an eye on their online accounts and look out for any suspicious activity.

Crypto holders could also have a look at how they can keep their virtual currencies, and their pockets, safe from fraudsters.

Have you ever been a victim of crypto fraud? What other steps can be taken to avoid getting scammed? Let us know in the comments below!

Images courtesy of Shutterstock

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