FBI Seizes 151 From Phone Scammers

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  • The FBI has seized 151 from the wallets of scammers who preyed on the elderly
  • The scammers pretended to be U.S. law enforcement agencies and convinced victims to hand over money
  • The money was then converted to bitcoin, which has now been seized

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) last week announced the seizure of over 150 worth $3.4 million obtained by scammers using a scheme that targeted the elderly. The FBI traced the money after it had been sent by victims, who had fallen prey to scammers pretending to be from law enforcement agencies, which led them to realize it had been converted into bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. These were seized, but the perpetrators have not yet been arrested.

Scammers Targeted Elderly Victims

In October 2020, according to court documents, overseas individuals targeted vulnerable victims, including first-generation U.S. citizens and elderly persons, by pretending to be members of U.S. law enforcement agencies over the phone and claiming their identity had been compromised. They used computer programs to make it appear as if the calls were coming from legitimate government sources.

The scammers then gained the victims’ trust and requested money transfers for “safekeeping,” promising that the victims would receive the money plus interest once the supposed perpetrators of identity fraud were captured. However, once they had access to the victims’ money, they transferred it through multiple bank accounts and converted it to digital currency including bitcoin and others.

$3.4 million in Bitcoin Seized

After tracing the victims’ money through various accounts, law enforcement investigators discovered a digital wallet containing bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies that had been bought with the victims’ money. The U.S. Attorney’s Office obtained a warrant to seize the digital wallet, and after the seizure, filed a complaint for civil asset forfeiture against the digital assets. This resulted in an order of forfeiture from the U.S. District Court of Connecticut.

The seizure is another example of the misconception that bitcoin can be effectively used to launder the proceeds of crime, which can now even be traced through mixing services.