The Department of Justice in the U.S. has successfully returned bitcoin to an elderly woman who had been defrauded by a government impersonator.
“The forfeiture and restitution of stolen cryptocurrency to [an] elderly man victimised by a government impostor hoax,” said U.S. Attorney Dena J. King on Tuesday. Individuals posing as government officers took a total of 12.164699 bitcoins worth $574,766 from the old man’s Coinbase account on August 31 last year. The scammer was discovered and the victim’s stolen assets were seized after a six-month collaborative investigation and successful civil forfeiture proceedings by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Coinbase.
The con artists conned the Asheville guy into believing he was involved in a drug trafficking and money laundering conspiracy. As a result, the victim’s whole estate would be frozen. According to the DOJ, the victim was told by one of the con artists, who described himself as “agent James Hoffman,” that he needed to transfer money into an account so that the government could verify that his assets weren’t involved in criminal activity. The suspects then asked the victim to “spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of his retirement funds” to acquire bitcoin using the cryptocurrency site Coinbase after obtaining all of the victim’s personal information and financial account details.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, North Carolinians reported more than 64,000 financial crimes worth $93 million in losses last year, up from $74 million in 2020. According to the Department of Justice, scam victims are usually elderly people who lack basic financial abilities or knowledge of bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, making them easy targets for scammers. Criminals often masquerade as grandkids and demand money from elderly victims under the guise of an urgent medical or electric bill, or even their children’s school tuition.
Due to an increase in financial fraud, the FBI and the US Attorney’s Office advise the public, particularly the elderly, to exercise caution while dealing with transactions.