‘Bitcoin scammers’ use Con Edison ruse to con senior

Cops from the 45th Precinct hung a sign on a Bitcoin machine located in a deli on Castle Hill Avenue urging anyone told to pay their Con Edison bill at the machine that they were falling victim to a scam.
Photo courtesy of NYPD

Another variation on a scam targeting Bronx residents has been identified.

A man in Castle Hill, who wished to remain anonymous, lost over $1,200 when con-men called and told him he must go to a Bitcoin machine and immediately deposit money or Con Edison was going to turn off his power in less than an hour.

The homeowner in Castle Hill was told first that he owed $900 by one person over the phone, and then was transferred to another who raised the outstanding overdue balance to $1,259.

The bogus electric company representative told the victim that he could settle the account quickly by using an authorized Con Edison Bitcoin payment machine – an ATM-like machine that deals in cryptocurrency – at 1500 Castle Hill Avenue to make a payment.

The call came at 5:05 p.m. on Wednesday, August 15. The homeowner was tricked into believing that the call was really from the utility because the phone number on his Caller-ID was the electric company’s, a con technique known as a ‘spoof,’ said the victim.

“On the Caller-ID it said ‘Co Con’,” said the victim,” said the victim. “They said ‘we sent you three notices that we were going to shut off your service: one in June, July and August.’”

The gentleman said that he didn’t believe that he owed any money, but that the con artists told him that they would be turning off his electric at 6 p.m., and that since it was already past 5 p.m., Con Edison may not be reachable by phone.

He did as he was told, and the fake customer service rep on the phone said that Con Edison would not take a money order, debit card or credit card, and that it would only accept cash fed into a Bitcoin machine.

Police from the 45th Precinct afterwards warned any other potential victims to stay away from the machine, affixing a sign near it alerting the public of the scam.

Scams like this one are quite common, according to police sources, and the victim said he believes that he may have been targeted because he was a senior.

The scam is similar to the recent ‘GreenDot’ scam, where seniors are told over the phone that they owe money to the IRS or utility companies, and that they must purchase GreenDot MoneyPak prepaid debit cards for payment.

In this scam, they are instructed to read a serial number on the card over the phone, and once they do, money is transferred to the thieves to cover the bogus bills.

Forty-ninth Precinct Community Affairs Officer David Lepore said that he follows a guideline that ‘if it seems fishy, it probably is.’

“I’d like to add that anyone that has issues or feels that they are being scammed can contact their local precinct’s Crime Prevention Officer for further information,” said Lepore.

Bob Bieder, 45th Precinct Community Council president, said that scammers are always finding new ways to con people out of money, and that he had heard recently of other scams and cons that involved Bitcoin.

“If someone calls up saying that you owe money, don’t just assume it is legit,” said Bieder, adding “If you think you are being scammed, there is a good chance you are.”

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.
Photo courtesy of NYPD

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