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

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago has seized approximately $1.4 million in Tether (USDT) related to an alleged tech support scam that primarily targeted elderly victims in the United States.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago 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 in the United States. The seizure, one of the first cases of recovery of USDT from a non-hosted virtual currency wallet by the US government, was made through a court-issued order.

According to Acting U.S. Attorney Maurice Pascual and FBI Special Agent Robert W. “Wes” Wheeler, Jr., the alleged fraud scheme involved a computer pop-up indicating that the victim’s computer had been compromised. The pop-up instructs the victim to contact Microsoft or Apple, depending on their operating system, at the phone number provided. Once on the phone, the perpetrators, posing as tech support staff, 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 convince victims to convert money from their traditional bank accounts to cryptocurrency to keep it “safe” from hackers. The funds were subsequently transferred to unhosted virtual currency wallets controlled by the perpetrators.

The FBI’s latest Internet Crime Report estimates that tech support fraud caused losses exceeding $924 million in 2023. The US Attorney’s Office credits Tether for its assistance in facilitating the transfer of seized assets to be returned to victims of the fraud scheme.

The seizure was a joint effort involving the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago, the FBI’s Chicago Field Office and the Department of Justice’s Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Division and the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team. Assistant US Attorney Steven J. Dollar represents the government in this case.

While authorities continue to investigate the alleged fraud scheme, this seizure serves as a warning to scammers targeting vulnerable populations and demonstrates the US government’s commitment to combating cryptocurrency-related crime. It also emphasizes the importance of educating the public, especially the elderly, about potential scams and the need to exercise caution when dealing with unsolicited technical support communications.

The growing prevalence of cryptocurrency scams targeting the elderly is an alarming trend. Fraudsters often take advantage of the lack of knowledge of technology and cryptocurrency among seniors to manipulate them into transferring funds to fraudulent wallets. Educating seniors about the risks associated with unsolicited tech support calls and the importance of verifying the legitimacy of every financial transaction is critical to preventing such scams.

Additionally, this case highlights the importance of cooperation between law enforcement, financial institutions, and cryptocurrency platforms in combating fraud. Tether’s assistance in seizing the fraudulent funds demonstrates the importance of public and private sector collaboration in identifying and preventing financial crime.

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 Tether funds in this case serves as an example of the US government’s growing ability to track and recover illicit cryptocurrency proceeds.

Going forward, it is critical that authorities continue their efforts to raise awareness of cryptocurrency scams, especially among vulnerable populations, and 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 technology skills.

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