Have you ever received a summary email asking you to pay the sender in Bitcoin? Or maybe iTunes gift cards? Why are these scammers so specific about how they get paid? This is because these payment methods make it harder to repay your funds.
Banks, credit cards, and online payment platforms like PayPal all offer some protection to their customers. They offer ways to dispute payments, void checks, and request chargebacks, which can help you when you’re scammed or your wallet stolen.
Scammers, of course, don’t want you to be able to initiate a chargeback. Be careful with any request for payment with these payment methods.
Leave cryptocurrency to the experts
Many scammers demand payment in Bitcoin due to its pseudonymous nature. Once you’ve sent the Bitcoin, it’s hard, if not impossible, to know who it went to and how they used it, let alone get your return funds. There are people in the community who specialize in this sort of thing, but they usually use it to track down funds lost in major hacks, not a single payment sent to an email extortioner.
Many legitimate businesses and individuals accept cryptocurrency payments because they are connected to this economy and industry. However, if you are not already familiar with crypto, you should not use it as a payment method.
Why gift cards, however?
Much like cryptocurrency, gift cards have a built-in level of anonymity. Once you give someone a gift card, it’s out of your hands. The money is stored in the card and there is no real way to get your funds back.
But why are crooks asking for gift cards? Especially iTunes gift cards? Do they really need to buy so much music? Probably not. There’s a good chance they’ll bring these cards to one of those shady shops you drove past that offers to buy unwanted gift cards. It is a ridiculously low profile method of money laundering.
Cash: the original anonymous currency
Online scams tend to be done in digital currencies and gift cards. Sometimes bank transfers. They need a form of value that is easy to send online or by mail, and easy to disperse as they see fit. However, the anonymity of cryptocurrency and gift cards is not a new aspect of our economy. We have always had an anonymous and difficult to trace store of value. It’s called cash.
Surely you’ve watched a crime movie or TV show where the villain demanded a ransom paid in “unmarked, non-sequential bills”. It’s because the bad guy knows the money can’t be attributed to them. It will disappear into the economy.
Cash is difficult to send in the mail, but some online scammers still ask to be paid. These crooks will send it to you by group mail and disguised in a parcel, or drop it off with a mule. Scams that target the elderly often rely on cash payment, as they may not trust their victims to have the technical knowledge to buy and send cryptocurrency.
Play it safe and get your funds back
Whenever you spend money and feel suspicious about it, try using a method that gives you the possibility of recovering your funds. Beware of those who demand payment in bitcoin, gift cards, or hard cash. Stay safe there!
Interesting related article: “What is a scam?” “