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Portland Police Issue Warning as Crypto Scammers Target Maine Residents

2 mins
Updated by Michael Washburn
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In Brief

  • Police in Portland, Maine, have sent out a warning about scammers targeting residents of the area.
  • Bad actors may send you a notice about some kind of problem with a purchase or personal account.
  • They then demand the insertion of money into a Bitcoin ATM, but the real destination is their wallet.
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Maine is a new battleground in the war against crypto scammers, and Portland police have issued a warning about the tactics that many fraudsters are putting to use.

While impersonation scams are not new, the modus operandi of these bad actors is to evoke fear on the part of their victims. And thereby pressure them into sending money.

Portland Police Warn of Crypto Scammers’ Ruse

According to a Tuesday statement from Portland’s police, scammers are busily sending out “urgent-sounding, fear-evoking messages.” These appear in pop-up windows and text messages.

The content of these messages is often something to the effect that Amazon, PayPal, or another online retailer has a billing problem. The customer needs to resolve it by doing exactly what the scammers say. Or that the hapless target’s bank account number is not secure and action is required.

Whatever the pretext, the scammer makes insidious use of the threat of serious legal and/or financial trouble. To pressure the victim into depositing funds into a Bitcoin ATM.

The real destination, as the police warning says, is the bad actors’ digital wallet. Once deposited there, the money is gone forever.

An unnamed police spokesperson elaborated:

“Remember, these scammers can be convincing, and use fear, urgency and scare tactics to get you to comply. If you receive this warning via a pop-up banner on your computer, in an email or text message, do not call the number provided on the screen.”

Learn more about how scammers exploit the lack of online and social media awareness on the part of some victims.

Elon Musk may have promised to clean up Twitter / X, but crypto scammers and other bad actors freely make use of the platform. Source: Fletcher / Digital Planet

Crypto Fraud on the Rise

As insidious as scams that evoke fear and alarm in victims may be, those that adopt a “friendlier” or “softer” approach are just as predatory. They baldly take advantage of psychological factors. Namely, the reassurance that many people find when they see the face of a public figure attached to a product or service.

Some scams make use of artificial intelligence (AI) to produce fake videos presenting the image of a celebrity. The videos have popped up on TikTok, purporting to show Elon Musk or another trusted public figure endorsing an investment opportunity.

Musk bought X, then known as Twitter, for $44 billion in October 2022. In spite of Musk’s promises to remake the platform and purge its many unappetizing features, notably spam bots, the problem has worsened. These, too, feature the likenesses of celebrities in an effort to solicit investments.

Some accounts try to lend themselves credibility by purporting to belong to a respected journalist or other commentator. Someone whose professional raison d’être is to warn people of the dangers of scam accounts. Not make them the victim of one.

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Michael Washburn
Michael Washburn is a New York-based managing editor who joined BeInCrypto in March 2023. Over his career, he written extensively about the corporate legal world and the intersection of finance and law, has produced thousands of articles and features, and has mentored many reporters and researchers finding their way in a fast-changing industry.