U.S. Seizes $1.4M in Tether Linked to Tech Support Scam Targeting Elderly

Luisa Crawford  Mar 13, 2024 18:50  UTC 10:50

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The U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago has announced the seizure of approximately $1.4 million in Tether (USDT), a cryptocurrency pegged to the U.S. dollar, in connection with an alleged tech support scam that primarily targeted elderly victims throughout the United States. The seizure, one of the first instances of the U.S. government recovering USDT from an unhosted virtual currency wallet, was carried out through a court-authorized warrant.

According to Acting U.S. Attorney Morris Pasqual and FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Robert W. "Wes" Wheeler, Jr., the alleged fraud scheme involved a computer popup indicating that the victim's computer had been compromised. The popup instructed the victim to contact Microsoft or Apple, depending on their operating system, at a provided telephone number. Once on the phone, perpetrators posing as tech support employees informed the victim that their bank account had also been compromised.

The scammers then transferred the call to others posing as employees of the victim's bank's fraud department. They convinced the victims to convert money from their traditional bank accounts into cryptocurrency to keep it "safe" from hackers. The funds were subsequently transferred into unhosted virtual currency wallets controlled by the perpetrators.

The FBI's most recent Internet Crime Report estimated that tech support scams caused losses exceeding $924 million in 2023. The U.S. Attorney's Office acknowledged Tether for its assistance in effectuating the transfer of the seized assets, which will be returned to the victims of the fraud scheme.

The seizure was a collaborative effort involving the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago, the FBI's Chicago Field Office, and the Justice Department's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven J. Dollear is representing the government in this case.

As authorities continue to investigate the alleged fraud scheme, this seizure serves as a warning to scammers targeting vulnerable populations and demonstrates the U.S. government's commitment to combating cryptocurrency-related crimes. It also highlights the importance of educating the public, especially the elderly, about potential scams and the need for caution when dealing with unsolicited tech support communications.

The growing prevalence of cryptocurrency scams targeting the elderly is a concerning trend. Scammers often exploit the lack of familiarity with technology and cryptocurrency among older individuals to manipulate them into transferring funds to fraudulent wallets. Educating the elderly about the risks associated with unsolicited tech support calls and the importance of verifying the legitimacy of any financial transaction is crucial in preventing such scams.

Furthermore, this case underscores the significance of collaboration between law enforcement agencies, financial institutions, and cryptocurrency platforms in combating fraud. Tether's assistance in the seizure of the fraudulent funds demonstrates the importance of cooperation between the public and private sectors in identifying and preventing financial crimes.

As the use of cryptocurrency continues to grow, it is essential for regulators and law enforcement agencies to adapt their strategies to effectively investigate and prosecute crypto-related crimes. The successful seizure of the Tether funds in this case serves as an example of the U.S. government's increasing capability to trace and recover illicit cryptocurrency proceeds.

Moving forward, it is crucial for authorities to continue their efforts in raising awareness about cryptocurrency scams, particularly among vulnerable populations, and to work closely with the crypto industry to develop robust security measures and regulations to prevent such fraudulent activities. By taking a proactive approach to combating cryptocurrency fraud, we can create a safer financial ecosystem for all users, regardless of their age or technological proficiency.

Image source: Shutterstock

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