3 On Your Side

Scammers using Bitcoin to target victims

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(3 ON YOUR SIDE) -

As Sara Mason looks at pictures of her ultrasounds, she can't believe she's about to be a mom.

"I'm just excited. I'm excited to get my own place and start being a mom," she told 3 On Your Side.

Mason and her fiance currently rent a Glendale home. But, with a new baby on the way, Mason says it's time for a little more room.

[RELATED: Bitcoin: What you need to know before investing]

So, she recently hit the Internet and started looking for a 3-bedroom house to rent.

And when she came across one particular house, a word came to mind. “Honestly, the first word was perfect,'" she said.

It was a 3-bedroom house with a pool for just under $900 a month. Mason jumped on it by contacting someone posing as the homeowner. But he was actually a scammer.

Mason says she forwarded the scammer a rental application and he immediately agreed to rent the home to her. All she had to do was pay him an $850 security deposit.

And here's the twist. That deposit needed to be sent using Bitcoin, which has become rather mainstream lately.

[RELATED: Bitcoin hits $11,000 and then plummets. What next?]

“Nothing went off in your mind at this point that this is weird using Bitcoin, because this is the way we do business these days?” 3 On Your Side’s Gary Harper asked.

“Yeah," she replied.

Bitcoin is a digital currency that was created back in 2009 and it can be used to buy things electronically.

According to Mason, she was told to drive to a Glendale retailer which actually has a Bitcoin kiosk. Here, she created a Bitcoin account and then she put $850 in cash into the kiosk to buy those Bitcoins. Then, after getting a receipt for the transaction, the scammer made this request. "So, he asked me to send a picture of the receipt to show that I actually put the money in there and I said OK, no problem," Mason said.

But that was a mistake, because the receipt contains sensitive information like Mason’s Bitcoin account number. It’s just what the scammer needs to literally steal her $850 in Bitcoins.

And that's exactly what he did. He took information from the picture she sent, and then used another kiosk to convert those Bitcoins back into real currency.

Mason called Bitcoin to see if anything could be done, but Bitcoin told her this.

"First of all, you should have never sent your receipt,” Mason says she remembers the Bitcoin representative saying. “And, he said the receipt is how you can retrieve money if you have a Bitcoin account. He said this is the biggest scam we're seeing right now."

Mason says she can't believe she became entangled in such bizarre scam and contacted the conman one last time. "I text-messaged him one more time because he wasn't answering his phone and I said, 'How could you do this to a woman who is seven months pregnant and needing a place to go? Now, I'm out money and I'm out a place to live.'" 

He didn’t respond.

Again, the use of Bitcoin is becoming more trendy these days. Just remember to never reveal sensitive information about your Bitcoin account or you too could become a theft victim.

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Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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Gary HarperGary Harper is the senior consumer and investigative reporter for 3 On Your Side at KTVK-TV.

Click to learn more about Gary.

Gary Harper
3 On Your Side

With more than 20 years of television experience, Gary has established himself as a leader in the industry when it comes to assisting viewers and resolving their consumer-related issues. His passion and enthusiasm have helped him earn an Emmy for Best Consumer Reporter from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He’s also garnered several Emmy nominations

He has negotiated resolutions with companies of all sizes, including some of the biggest corporations in the nation.

Gary has successfully recouped more than $1 million for viewers around the state, making 3 On Your Side one of the most popular segments on KTVK and the station's Web site.

He's best known for investigating and confronting unscrupulous contractors. In fact, many of his news reports have led to police investigations and jail time for those who were caught. Viewers, as well as the companies and people he investigates, regard him as consistently being thorough and fair.

Gary has been with KTVK-TV since 1997. Prior to his arrival in Phoenix, he worked for WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was as an anchor and reporter.

Gary is from Chicago, but launched his television career in Lubbock, Texas, after earning a broadcast journalism degree from Texas Tech University. Following his graduation, he was quickly hired by KLBK-TV in Lubbock, where he enterprised and broke numerous exclusive reports. His aggressive reporting in Texas helped garner him Best Reporter by the Associated Press.

Gary has been married since 1994 and is the proud father of two sons. When he's not helping viewers, Gary is busy catching up on his favorite college and professional football teams as well as cheering on his beloved Texas Tech Red Raiders.

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