Police are investigating after a resident reported being tricked into converting more than $60,000 in cash into untraceable cryptocurrency earlier this week.
And they have a warning to residents not to let down their guard when it comes to requests for payment from individuals on the phone or computer.
Marblehead police Chief Dennis King said in a text that people should be aware that “we are seeing these types of scams more and more often, and they’re sophisticated and convincing.”
And they happen everywhere, including Marblehead.
King said the latest scam, which was reported on Tuesday, involved scammers who used a computer message to tell the victim their accounts had been “compromised” on Russian and Chinese web sites.
To “fix” the problem, the scammers told the resident to withdraw cash and then drive to various locations on the North Shore to convert it to Bitcoin.
King said police are investigating the report.
Once Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency is sent to a scammer, it is basically impossible to recover, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC has some information on its website about how a variety of cryptocurrency scams work, including the type of scam suspected in the Marblehead case.
In that type of scam, the criminal — who could be anywhere in the world — poses as someone associated with an actual business or the brand of computer someone is using, and calls, sends a text message or email, or has placed malicious code on a website that triggers a “pop up” message on the computer or phone screen.
Those who respond or click on a link are connected to a scammer, who might seem friendly, concerned, and helpful as they ask for payments in untraceable cryptocurrency (and sometimes gift cards) to “solve” the problem.
Scammers also have the ability to generate a fake version of the email addresses and phone numbers of a business to make the message appear genuine, in order to get a victim to click on a link.
Marblehead police said in a social media post Tuesday that while scammers target senior citizens, the victims have also included younger people as well.
They urge anyone who gets a call, email, text or popup message to pause, not panic, and think. For example, if a message purports to be from a business, look up the number and call the company directly or if it’s a local bank, go in person.
And they urge people not to be offended if a bank employee asks why they’re withdrawing a large amount of cash — banks train their employees to watch for warning signs of scams.
Scammers, police said, can be very convincing, and often use the element of fear — telling someone that their financial accounts or computer has been hacked, or in another scheme, that a loved one is in trouble or danger — to throw their target off-guard.
The victim in the most recent incident is being assisted by their bank, Age Span (formerly North Shore Elder Services) and the Marblehead police, who have been investigating.