Beware the new cryptocurrency scam, FTC says

Here’s the puzzle: What does a QR code, an impersonator, and cryptocurrency get you? A new scam.

The scam starts like they all do. You are told a story via email, text or phone call that the IRS is sending police to arrest you for back taxes unless you pay them immediately. Or, maybe you've found an overseas love interest who would visit, but he needs you to send him money. Perhaps you believe it's the utility company threatening to turn off power unless you pay up fast. 

Whatever the fraudulent story, the caller tries to gain your confidence. When you fall for it, you have opened the door to your hard-earned money. 


But this traditional scam has a fresh twist. According to the Federal Trade Commission, you are asked to urgently send money, but it all moves through a cryptocurrency ATM. You are seeing those pop up more and more in some convenience stores now.

The IRS and other agencies do not accept cryptocurrency. If a caller demands it, it is a scam. 

As the FTC tells it, the scammer will give you their QR code to their cryptocurrency wallet. Then, when you buy with your cash the cryptocurrency, it’s transferred to the scammer's account. And just like that, poof! Your money is gone.

From the FTC: No one from the government, law enforcement, utility or prize promoter will tell you to pay in cryptocurrency. Any message via text, email or social media from a stranger asking for payment this way is trying to scam you.

When you see these ATMs popping up in conventional places, it can get confusing. Just use the traditional safeguards you know to avoid getting to this point. Don’t get bamboozled by strangers telling you that you urgently need to pay them for something.