A Port Aransas business owner received a robocall asking her to deposit $900 at a “federal courthouse kiosk” to pay her fines.
Unfortunately, the anonymity and decentralization that made Bitcoin popular also creates an opportunity for scammers.
3News spoke to a woman who nearly fell for the Coastal Bend scam and the store owner who stopped her from dumping $900.
Times are changing, which means scammers are getting more creative in how they target ordinary people.
The Port Aransas business owner, who wished to remain anonymous, said the scams aren’t as easy to crack as some might think.
“He made it look super official and that I had to leave my workplace right away,” the business owner told 3News on condition of anonymity.
She went on to describe how the robocall asked her to deposit money in a very unlikely location.
“He wanted me to go and deposit $900 in this flip machine that’s a federal courthouse kiosk to pay your fines,” she said.
However, it is not a kiosk, it is an ATM used to buy and sell bitcoins located inside the Middle East Market and Deli off Everheart Road.
Grocery store owners tell 3News that scammers ask their victims to go to machines like these, scan a QR code, then deposit money to clear their name and avoid jail time .
But, it doesn’t erase anyone’s name and instead gives a scammer an easy payday straight into their cryptocurrency wallet.
“So they heard me talking to them on the phone and the cashier came over and told me it was a big scam,” the business owner said. “And the guy on the phone was arguing with them.”
Liza Hamauei, owner of the Deli, saved her from the scam, but said she was only one of the cases they were able to prevent.
“Who? I don’t know, but they send people here and we’ve already stopped three people from sending money to this scammer,” Hamauei said.
In order to thwart potential scam attempts, Hamauei attempted to unplug the machine. However, due to a contract with the company to keep it in the store, she said all she could do was warn customers about the scam.
“Right now we’re living in a terrible world and it’s the good people who are being hurt, so we really need to stop this,” Hamauei said. “And I would double check and call us to make sure we can stop this.”
As a reminder, the courthouse does NOT accept bitcoin as a payment option and will never ask residents to deposit payment on a third-party site.
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