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Is there a legit reason for someone to send you to a Bitcoin ATM? The short answer is NO. Will someone from the government send you to a Bitcoin ATM? NEVER. If you’ve followed this Anatomy of an Imposter Scam series, you know there’s more to it than that.

Scammers succeed because they’re good at what they do — which is lying. So, if someone calls and says you have to act now because your money is at risk, you might listen if they’re convincing. They’ll scare you into keeping it a secret — even from your closest loved ones. Once they have you alarmed and alone, they’ll give you the solution to the problem they just created: “protect your money by moving it.” And that’s when they’ll send you to a Bitcoin ATM to “secure” your money. “Problem” solved? Not even close.

That’s because neither Bitcoin nor the ATM will protect your money. In fact, no cryptocurrency will. No matter what the caller says, there’s no such thing as a government Bitcoin account or digital wallet. There are no Bitcoin federal safety lockers. And only a scammer will give you a QR code to “help” you deposit your life savings in a Bitcoin ATM.

What they’re doing is trying to rush you into something you can’t reverse: giving your money to a scammer. So, if you get a call like this, remember:

  • Never move or transfer your money to “protect it.” Your money is fine where it is, no matter what they say or how urgently they say it. 
  • Worried? Call your real bank, broker, or investment advisor. Use the number you find on your account statements. Don’t use the number the caller gives you. That’ll take you to the scammer.
  • Report it. Tell your bank or fund right away. Especially if you moved money. Then tell the FTC:

Could you share this post with one person today? Scammers love this approach right now. But if we all tell one person, and they tell one person, we can make sure more people know how to stop this scam. Their life savings will thank you.

Did someone send you to a Bitcoin ATM? It’s a scam.

Our “Anatomy of an Imposter Scam” blog series breaks down how to recognize, avoid, and report business and government imposter scams. Read more.

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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

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Dona Maria Keyton
March 11, 2024

I ended up being taken for 300 something dollars

Eileen Tuominen
March 20, 2024

I appreciate the information you provide. Trusting people get taken all the time

Therman Martin
March 20, 2024

I have about 20 hard copies of emails showing the email address & telephone numbers if you ever need them.

March 21, 2024


Sally Bright
March 21, 2024

4 years ago someone talked me into buying bitcoins thru a company.
It kept costing me more & more money. I had to stop
STILL get notices from company(I can't remember name) showing how my bitcoins have gone up.
Haven't a clue if it's real or not but Sure I'll need more money to cash them in.
Any ideas?

Maria Pacilli
April 05, 2024

Thank you for all the info.,as it will be shared.

DH in VA
May 30, 2024

This has just happened to us yesterday evening. We are in Virginia but learned that our daughter had been arrested the afternoon before. We received a text msg out of the blue to call a Sargent Strickland at a Phoenix number about the recent arrest of our daughter in that city. We called and he explained he was with the Maricopa Sheriff’s pre-trial office and was calling about daughter’s $2400 bail. We explained that we had already just arranged bail via a friend and he said, “oh, I guess it hasn’t been updated in my computer yet.
Smoothly, he then said that the arraignment judge had ordered her to get an ankle monitor before release which would require a partially refundable fee of $1500 which needed to be paid at the jail or via remote, if we preferred. We are in VA and knew it was impossible to pay at the jail and didn’t want to impose of friends a second time. He then explained that the Sheriff’s office used a network of Bitcoin Kiosks and there was probably one near us (he identified three 3). This means of payment, he explained, had begun during the Covid period. It had to be submitted in cash to the pre-trail office via a kiosk. We went to get ATM cash with only $800 limited by our ATM cash out per day. He said he’d send us a QR code for the kiosk and instructed to call him back once at the kiosk and he would assist us in depositing the cash. He added that even an initial deposit would be sufficient to have the jail release her with an ankle monitor since it was clear we intended to pay the balance within 24 hours.

We followed his instructions and deposited the cash. He was polite, even sympathetic about our concern as parents. He promised that he’d get a second QR code for the second tranche today (it just arrived).

In the meantime, we told a friend about what we we’d just done who immediately screamed “SCAM!” Don’t do it!

Reflecting, we started to research online such a way of depositing $$ for the AZ Superior Court and realized that the Court never, ever uses such a means of accepting money. We’d been duped. I will alert the court today but our $800 is virtually gone now. Upon reflection, I should have been more suspicious but concern about our daughter, urgency, physical distance, and the perpetrator’s convincing talk over the phone combined to lead us to follow his instructions.

We will be in touch with the Court today but highly unlikely to retrieve the $800. .

FTC Staff
May 30, 2024

In reply to by DH in VA

Thank you for sharing your story to help us understand how scammers change their stories, and pretend to know family members.