Consumers have received a fictitious email asking them to provide a bitcoin wallet key that would purportedly enable a transfer of funds under the control of the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), according to an alert from the agency on Wednesday.
The fake message, which contains multiple typos and grammatical errors, allegedly comes from the OCC or senior agency officials.
“Your fund $10.5M is ready to be paid to you,” the communication said. “Note your fund can only be paid to you VIA a Bitcoin Wallet Address ID NO.” The message claims that “the IMF.UNITED NATIONS and WORLD BANK have made a new policy that any debt or payment belonging to an individual above $1M should be paid through a bitcoin wallet address.”
The federal regulatory agency warned that any communication claiming the OCC is “holding … funds for the benefit of any individual” is “fraudulent,” and that consumers should not respond “in any manner” to the message.
The fraudulent email comes two days after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported a dramatic surge in cryptocurrency investment scam reports over a six-month period extending from the last quarter of 2020 through the first quarter of 2021.
According to the FTC, during this timeframe about 7,000 consumers reported losses from cryptocurrency scams amounting to over $80 million, a roughly 12-fold increase in the volume of reports and an almost 1,000% increase in reported losses compared to the same six-month period a year earlier.
The FTC said that younger consumers were most vulnerable to these scams. Investors between the ages of 20 and 49 were likelier to report losing money in cryptocurrency scams than older investors. The report also found that more than half the investment scam losses for people in their 20s and 30s involved cryptocurrency. However, individual losses to cryptocurrency scams among older age groups, although less frequent, were greater with a $3,250 median loss.
In the OCC alert, the agency said scammers instructed potential victims to respond to one of three email addresses: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
The agency said consumers receiving the fraudulent emails should contact the OCC’s Special Supervision Division, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office Inspector General, the FTC or consumer protection groups.