Portsmouth Police are warning about scams involving cryptocurrency ATM that upgrades an old scam with the same result: you lose your money.

Crypto cash is a type of digital currency that exists electronically only, according to the FTC. You can cash it in for physical coins, but it is usually exchanged online using a phone or computer. Bitcoin and Ether are two well known cryptocurrencies.

The scam used to involve turning cash into gift cards, making the funds nearly impossible to recover. The scam now involves taking cash to an ATM that sells cryptocurrencies and supports reading QR codes.

In some cases scammers will falsely identify themselves as a bank, utility company, or law enforcement to make a convincing case to engage in a transaction, according to Portsmouth Police.

Once the money is in the machine, the QR code sent to the victim by a scammer will tell the ATM to send the crypto that was just purchased to an address.

"And just like that, the victim loses their money, and the scammer has successfully exploited them," Portsmouth police wrote on their Facebook account.

According to the FBI, once the payment is made at the ATM, the transfer of funds is immediate. Traditional bank transfers or wires remain pending for a day or two, which improves the chances of recovery.

"If someone you don’t know is asking you to send them money, don’t do it using any method, crypto or otherwise," the department wrote in their warning.

The FBI offers some tips on how to protect yourself against scammers:

Tips to Protect Yourself:

  • Do not send payments to someone you have only spoken to online, even if you believe you have established a relationship with the individual.
  • Do not follow instructions from someone you have never met to scan a QR code, and send payment via a physical cryptocurrency ATM.
  • Do not respond to a caller who claims to be a representative of a company, where you are an account holder, and who requests personal information or demands cryptocurrency. Contact the number listed on your card or the entity directly for verification.
  • Do not respond to a caller from an unknown telephone number who identifies as a person you know and requests cryptocurrency.
  • Practice caution when an entity states they can only accept cryptocurrency and identifies as the government, law enforcement, a legal office, or a utility company. These entities will likely not instruct you to wire funds, send checks, send money overseas, or make deposits into unknown individuals’ accounts.
  • Avoid cryptocurrency ATMs advertising anonymity and only requiring a phone number or e-mail. These cryptocurrency ATMs may be non-compliant with US federal regulations and may facilitate money laundering. Instructions to use cryptocurrency ATMs with these specific characteristics are a significant indicator of fraud.
  • If you are using a cryptocurrency ATM and the ATM operator calls you to explain that your transactions are consistent with fraud and advises you to stop sending money, you should stop or cancel the transaction.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNH

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