CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio (WJW) – The FOX 8 I-Team has uncovered a growing number of people in Northeast Ohio getting ripped off for big money by scams revolving around bitcoin.
Bitcoin is a digital money system without a central bank. Maybe you don’t understand it or never heard of it, but some of your neighbors are getting taken by con artists with very little chance of getting justice.
Video released to the I-Team shows Cleveland Heights Police investigating a bitcoin scam.
A man who reported losing $18,000 told a detective he got tied up in a complicated con game.
Video shows he told police he received a series of phone calls ordering him to deposit money in bitcoin machines. He said someone posed as a federal agent on the phone.
The victim described what he was told by that caller.
“Federal authorities out of Texas… You’re the prime suspect in money laundering and criminals using your name to rent a car that has lots of kilos in it, drugs,” he said.
Chances are you’ve seen the bitcoin machines, which are usually found in corner stores.
In addition to the Cleveland Heights case, the I-Team has found multiple cases in Cleveland with people reporting they lost thousands to bitcoin scams.
A woman made a report with Euclid Police. She told the I TEAM she lost big bucks to a man on social media promising she’d make a lot of money through bitcoin.
The woman told us she lost $8,000.
“From that point, I’m like, ‘You know what, I’m not giving you any more money,'” she said.
Local detectives have traced the fraud overseas. Cleveland Heights and Cleveland Police have followed the money to the Middle East and China, so no one’s been arrested in local cases.
The I-Team found more evidence of why getting justice is not easy. Lawyers for companies behind bitcoin ATMs went to Cuyahoga County Court demanding police give back money seized from the machines during investigations.
The companies argued they are not responsible for the people carrying out the scams. Investigators ended up giving back about $20,000.
So, the scams are complex, the investigations are complex, but the feeling is very clear after you’ve been taken.
The victim we spoke to from the Euclid case admits she finds herself wondering how she got wrapped up in this.
“I warn everybody. I tell everybody,” she said.
All of these local cases combined send a message of warning about bitcoin con artists.