POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Bitcoin machines have started popping up at convenience stores across Polk County and the sheriff’s office is warning residents about people using them to rip others off.
Deputies say two elderly men were targeted recently. One of them lost $1,500, according to the sheriff’s office.
Bitcoin is the most popular cryptocurrency. It’s purchased with different currencies, including U.S. money, and used for online transactions.
Nimisha Chokshi installed a Bitcoin machine at her store, Lincoln Super Stop in Lakeland, within the last year.
On Sunday evening, an elderly man spent three hours walking in and out of Chokshi’s store trying to figure out the Bitcoin machine.
He said he had received a call from someone claiming to be a Polk County Sheriff’s Office sergeant. The person on the phone said there was a warrant out for his arrest and he needed to buy Bitcoin or risk being arrested.
“I say, ‘you better not send any money because this is a scam call,” said Chokshi. “It looked like to me, that he was trusting more to those people than me.”
The man eventually left without buying Bitcoin.
“She is our favorite Polk Countian right now. It’s great when our community and our citizens are aware of what’s going on around them,” Polk County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Alicia Manautou said.
According to Manautou, victims of the scheme buy the cryptocurrency using an ID given to them by the swindler.
“They have an ID that is associated with a wallet. That wallet belongs to that individual as far as the Bitcoin owner. Because of the fact that it is an ID number, it’s not a name, that’s where the anonymity comes in,” she explained.
As with all schemes like this, law enforcement officials remind people they do not call anyone asking for money. They certainly don’t take money in exchange for an arrest nor do they deal in Bitcoin.
“I can imagine that the typical citizen probably doesn’t understand it either. It would be very easy to use that to scam someone,” said Manautou. “You should hang up and call the sheriff’s office.”
You can learn more about the schemes happening locally on the Polk County Sheriff’s Office website.
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