The US Department of Justice has successfully returned to an elderly person the bitcoin stolen by a government imposter.

US Attorney Dena J. King announced Tuesday “the forfeiture and return of stolen cryptocurrency to [an] elderly man victimized by government imposter scam.”

On August 31 last year, a total of 12.164699 bitcoins worth approximately $574,766 was stolen from the old man’s Coinbase account by individuals acting as government agents. 

After six months, the joint investigation and successful civil forfeiture proceedings of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Coinbase resulted in the scammer being identified and the victim’s stolen assets seized. 

“The seized cryptocurrency was forfeited to the United States government and will be returned to the victim,” the DOJ confirmed.

Scaring The Victims

The scammers conducted the fraud by deceiving the Asheville man into thinking that the latter was allegedly involved in a drug trafficking and money laundering scheme. Thus, all of the victim’s assets would be frozen. 

One of the fraudsters, who identified himself as “agent James Hoffman,” informed the victim that he needed to deposit money into an account for the government to verify that his assets weren’t involved in criminal activity, the DOJ disclosed.

After taking all of the victim’s personal information and details regarding his financial accounts, the suspects then asked the victim to “use hundreds of thousands of dollars of his retirement funds” to buy bitcoin through the cryptocurrency platform Coinbase. 

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No Bitcoin Or Financial Knowledge

Last year, North Carolinians reported more than 64,000 financial frauds worth $93 million in losses, which is higher than the $74 million record in 2020, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 

Scam victims are frequently elderly persons who lack basic financial skills or any knowledge on bitcoin or other cryptocurrency and hence are easy targets for scammers, according to the Department of Justice.

Criminals frequently pose as grandchildren and demand money from elderly victims on the pretext that they must pay for, like an urgent medical or electricity bill, or even their kids’ school tuition.

Extra Precautions

With the surge in financial scams, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office urge the public, most especially the seniors, to be careful in dealing with transactions.

Here are some ways to avoid being scammed:

  • If it’s too good to be true, be mindful of its legitimacy.
  • Don’t openly share personal information with anyone, even with the people you know.
  • Be skeptical of sudden lottery wins and prizes.
  • Don’t click on pop-up ads and sketchy messages that appear in your email.
  • Block spam emails and anonymous calls.
  • Try to minimize sending gift cards, money orders, and cryptocurrency with strangers.
  • Don’t give your bank account details unless the transaction is secured and legitimate.
  • Do not transact with anonymous users.

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