Retired nurse loses $43K life savings on Bitcoin scam: ‘This is organized crime’

A retired nurse has lost $43,000 and her part-time job after Bitcoin scammers took over her work computer.

The woman from Buffalo, NY, who asked ABC affiliate WKBW to withhold her identity from their report, said she was duped into withdrawing money and sending via wire transfer and Bitcoin ATM to an unknown party after a computer pop-up told her to do it.

The fake ad was part of a common phishing scheme involving malware that purports to lock you out of your desktop and warn you that your finances have been hacked. The victim is told that the only way to save their money is to move it into a new location — one where you’re never given access.

The popup asked the woman to call a number, which connected her with someone who informed her that her bank credentials had been compromised, and she needed to move her money in order to save it.

She lost a total of $43,130 in cash, wiring $13,700 to a bank in East Asia, and depositing $29,430 to a Bitcoin ATM, which converts your dollars to cryptocurrency while depositing it into a digital wallet — ideally your own. In this case, the woman was provided a barcode — a key to the thief’s bank — and sent her money to somewhere in Kolkata, India.

Todd Maher, president of the financial crimes consultancy Bitsource AML Solutions, stressed that there’s never a good reason to send your dollars or crypto directly to a third party or anyone you don’t know. “Zero percent of the time is that legitimate,” he told WKBW.

Bitcoin ATMs convert your dollars to cryptocurrency while depositing it into a digital wallet.
Getty Images

She was also blamed for giving the hackers access to her work computer and fired from her part-time job as a result.

“This is organized crime. She is up against a sophisticated criminal operation,” said AARP’s Director of Fraud Prevention Kathy Stokes in a statement to WKBW. “They got the money, the time, the playbook, they have employees and it’s us against them.”

Stokes warned users that these criminals know how to target people when they’re most vulnerable.

“If you feel yourself getting excited or upset from an email, phone call or whatever, try and connect that with an ‘OK I have to be skeptical here,’ because once there it’s hard to back out,” said Stokes, advising potential victims to avoid interacting with these mysterious pop-ups and see an IT expert as soon as possible.

Bitcoin ATM transactions are irreversible, Maher reminded, so it’s unlikely the woman will recoup her losses despite going to the police.

Those who believe they’ve been targeted by scams and frauds should report it to their state’s consumer protection offices, as well as local law enforcement. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also collects scam reports in all forms, though they cannot aid in investigation or retrieve losses.

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