Scam Involving Bitcoin Nets Criminals Posing as Government Officials $2 Million

Cryptocurrency scammers have reportedly been posing as government officials and asking people to make payments in Bitcoin (BTC) or use prepaid gift cards.

New York’s Police Department (NYPD) has issued a warning regarding the fraudulent activity and has also reported the scammers have already stolen millions of dollars by posing as Social Security Administration (SSA) officers.

Over 200 Complaints Received

As confirmed by the NYPD, cryptocurrency-related scams involving bad actors posing as government officials have increased significantly. In fact, the NYPD revealed it received over 200 complaints this year regarding losses of more than $2 million (in total). Notably, the NYPD said it only received three such complaints thrgouhout last year.

Commenting on the matter, Nilda Hofmann, the Chief of Community Affairs, remarked:

Sophisticated phone scams use the trust victims have in their own governmental and law enforcement agencies against them. Victims of this type of phone scam are not limited to senior citizens – these criminals are targeting every strata of society and every demographic is vulnerable.

“Just Hang Up If You Suspect Call To Be Fraudulent”

Hofmann added that the NYPD has been working cooperatively with its partners in the financial sector. She also noted that police officials are committed towards investigating the matter and will hold the criminals accountable for their exploitative actions.

Hoffman advised that “if you even suspect a call to be fraudulent, don’t take a chance, just hang up.”

Scammers Misleading Victims

Scammers posing as government officials have been calling unsuspecting individuals and have been telling them that their social security number was used without their consent to open various accounts. Some of the victims were also told their government-issued IDs were used to engage in illicit activities such as money laundering and drug trafficking.

After the victims have been tricked into thinking their social security number was misused, the scammers tell them to transfer large sums of money, in order to resolve the matter. According to the NYPD, the scammers pose as “law enforcement officers” or “police officials” and use intimidation and issue threats in order to get the victims to comply.

Scammers often use “spoofing” techniques to mislead people into believing that they are actually receiving phone calls from government officials. These tactics can be quite convincing at times because the victim’s caller ID actually displays the real number of the Social Security Administration (after it has been spoofed).

Bitrue Hacked: $4.5 Million in XRP and ADA Stolen, User Funds Will Be Replaced

At around 17:00 UTC on June 26 or 01:00 on June 27 in Singapore, where digital asset exchange Bitrue is based, a security breach occurred, which resulted in a loss of $4.5 million in crypto from the exchange's hot wallets.

Bitrue, which was founded in 2018, has quickly become a favorite with members of the XRP community because of the high degree of enthusiasm, support, and transparency shown by its management towards XRP. One interesting fact about Bitrue is that it supported XRP as a base currency on the day that its trading platform was launched (19 July 2018). 

At press time (07:57 UTC on June 27), visitors to the Bitrue website are greeted with this message:

Bitrue Hack Announcement.png

Around 02:16 UTC on June 27, Bitrue issued an official statement (via a series of tweets) that explained what exactly had happened, how this impacted its users, and what it was going to do next:

  • At approximately 17:00 UTC on June 26, a hacker or group of hackers "exploited a vulnerability" in the exchange's "Risk Control team's 2nd review process" to "access the personal funds of about 90 Bitrue users."
  • The hackers "used what they learned from this breach" to steal around $4.5 million in crypto—more specifically 9.3 million XRP and 2.5 million Cardano (ADA)—from the exchange's hot wallets and moved these coins to various other exchanges.
  • Shortly after the security breach, this attack was detected and trading, withdrawals, and deposits were all suspended on Bitrue, and the three exchanges where the stolen funds were moved to—Huobi Global, Bittrex, and ChangeNOW—were alerted and asked to freeze "the affected funds and accounts." Bitrue has also "contacted the relevant authorities in Singapore to assist us in tracking down the culprit and retrieving the stolen funds."
  • Because initially it was not quite clear what exactly had happened, the message shown above (about "system maintenance") was posted on the Bitrue website... Bitrue wishes to apologize for "this miscommunication" with its users.
  • Bitrue wants to reassure its users that all "heir personal funds are insured, and anybody affected by this breach will have their funds replaced by us as soon as possible."
  • Bitrue is currently "conducting an emergency inspection of the exchange and hope to be live again as soon as possible with log in & trading functionality." As for withdrawals, they will be "offline for a slightly longer period" while the investigation continues.
  • The flow of stolen XRP can be tracked via the XRP Ledger tool at Bithomp: https://bithomp.com/explorer/rwSvajJ4ZNhjgzcfaJWkEuLh4VURTFHuka

In communication with CryptoGlobe, Bitrue's support team confirmed that:

  • all user funds are "insured up to a maximum value of 1 million USD per user"; and
  • "trading should be back up within a few hours, and at that time users who were affected will already have their lost funds back in their accounts"

A few hours ago, Bitrue CEO Curis Wang posted this message on Twitter:

UPDATE (08:15 on June 27): Bitrue has just released a statement to media outlets to provide further details about this incident:

  • Of the $4.5 million in stolen crypto, 50% was "moved to private wallets," and the other 50% was moved to five crypto exchanges: Huobi, Bittrex, ChangeNOW, Exmo.me, and Coinswitch.co. The first three have frozen the stolen funds that were moved there (worth around $1.35 million). 
  • "This frozen amount should be recoverable by Bitrue in the future after working with the authorities and exchanges."
  • "After recovering the frozen assets, the net loss will be $3.15 million USD." This total "includes $1.89 million USD lost from individual user accounts, and $1.26 million USD lost from Bitrue’s own hot wallet."
  • "The funds lost by user accounts were insured and will be replaced by Bitrue as soon as the exchange resumes service."
  • "Bitrue plans to re-enable log in and trading services by midnight (Singapore time) June 27, i.e. by 16:00 UTC on June 27.
  • "Withdrawals from the exchange will not be possible until the Bitrue team is confident that any security vulnerabilities have been addressed."
  • "Bitrue will continue the planned launch of the trading of their platform token, Bitrue Coin (BTR), on Sunday 30 June 2019."
  • "Bitrue will analyze their automated systems and manual processes to identify any potential vulnerabilities and patch them before they can be exploited."

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