Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday: Building a digital defense against scams by reference


PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) — This week, the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment focuses on building a digital defense against referral scams.

In Oregon, we recently received several reports of this type of scam through the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. It’s just a new twist using old-school techniques.

Here’s how it works. You post something on social media. You, for example, tell how your car was stolen or your bicycle disappeared. Someone contacts you. The person can pretend to be a private investigator or just a “guy who knows a guy”. He says he managed to fix your kind of situation or find what you lost…or he knows someone who does. In the case of a “guy who knows a guy”, he vouches for Guy #2.

You get in touch with your new friend the private detective or Guy #2’s former respondent. You pay him – maybe a few hundred dollars – to get your bike back. Payment can be made through a payment app or, perhaps, even a cryptocurrency ATM.

You don’t need to have a cryptocurrency account or really know anything about crypto – it sends you a code, you walk to the ATM, insert the money and use the code. Money leaves your hand and hits his wallet almost immediately.

Needless to say, your new friend the private detective – or maybe Guy #2 – disappears faster than your bike, and he takes your money with him.

How do you protect yourself?

  • Never do business with someone you don’t know or who isn’t referred by a reliable source.
  • Do your research. Check online for reports of similar activity by bad actors. If the person claims to be a legitimate operator – such as PI – call the company to confirm and verify business records.
  • Check the references, not the ones he gave you.
  • Never send money to someone you don’t know, especially through a crypto ATM.

If you are the victim of online fraud, you should report the incident to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call your local FBI office.


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