Merrimac Police Warn Public After Resident Is Scammed Out Of $28,000

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MERRIMAC, Mass. (WBZNewsRadio) - A Merrimac resident was recently scammed out of $28,000 and now police are urging the public to use caution, as instances of Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency scams are on the rise.

Last month, a Merrimac resident was online shopping and clicked a link. She immediately started getting a number of warnings on her computer that claimed to be scam alerts. The warnings kept coming and told her to call a specific phone number for assistance.

When she called the phone, she was told funds had mistakenly been transferred to her bank account and in order to rectify the situation, she needed to download an application and contact her bank to fix the mistake. Authorities believe the application the woman downloaded, gave the scammers further access to personal information.

Posing as her bank, the scammers then initiated a number of phone calls, before convincing her to withdraw money from her bank account and deposit $28,000 to a nearby Bitcoin ATM. Scammers continued to stress, this was the only way to fix the alleged banking error.

When she realized she'd become the victim of a scam, she contacted Merrimac Police.

"Scams like these are tragic because they target and take advantage of elderly residents, who often have limited income and rely on their savings," said Police Chief Eric Shears. "A key point to remember when trying to protect yourself against such scams is that few legitimately businesses will have you send payment via Bitcoin, gift cards or money transfer."

There are a number of red flags when it comes to scams. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says there are four big signs to help potential victims recognize possible scams.

First, scammers will typically pretend to be from an organization you're familiar with. They may tell you they work for the Social Security Administration, the IRS, Medicare, or even your local police or fire department. Others pose as reputable businesses like a utility company to gain your trust.

Secondly, the scammers will explain there is some sort of problem. Perhaps they'll say you or a loved one is in trouble with the law, or that you owe money, or they may explain there is a virus on your computer. Whatever the issue they claim you're experiencing, they'll pressure you to hand over personal information to "double check" against their records or verify who you are.

Now that the scammers have presumably gained your trust, they're going to pressure you to act immediately. Scammers will use whatever tactics necessary to get you to do what they want. For example, they could threaten to arrest you, sue you, or take away your driver's license.

And finally, scammers will always tell you how they want you to pay them and more often than not, it'll be a very specific way. They may ask you to pay them through Bitcoin, money transfer or gift cards.

The FTC says all of these are red flags and recommends if you believe you may be on the other end of a scam, hang up, don't click on any links, never call a number they gave you or the number that showed up on your caller ID, and always double check with the company or business the scammer may be posing as.

"Scams like these are becoming increasingly complex, but one common part of such scams is that they seek to pressure people into quickly sending payments," said Detective Stephen Beaulieu. "We encourage anyone receiving these types of calls of communications to slow down, take a deep breath, and reach out to friends, family members, or Merrimac Police for advice on what next steps should be."

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