Ride The Pine: The Big Bitcoin Scam

We have to cover the front desk. It is always an interesting assignment, you never know what will walk through the front doors. You could film a great season of COPS just in the lobby of our police station. It could be really insane sometimes. I love it.

It was my turn downstairs on an evening shift. It had been pretty steady but nothing overly exciting. We could help with some paperwork, answer basic questions, and take minor reports. Anything that was of substance or excitement we would have an officer dispatched to handle it. I heard the doorbell and looked up from my book to see a woman rushing through the front door in tears.

This looked like it could be something big, she was hysterically crying. I steeled myself for what was next and calmly asked her what I could help her with. The victim was about 60 years old, with a flower print shirt, gray hair, and thick glasses, pretty much exactly what you imagine for the stereotypical grandma.

I got her calmed down enough to understand she’d been scammed. She got conned when her only grandson’s Facebook was hijacked and she received a message saying he was being held hostage. Pretty standard fair at the time and the con artist had talked her through the entire process of taking money out and going to a Bitcoin ATM to transfer the money. She didn’t realize it was a scam until she called her daughter to explain how she had saved Little Johnny. The unfortunate part of Bitcoin scams like this is they are irreversible and untraceable, there was really nothing we could do Grandma other than document the incident.

Scams were one of the reports we could take at the front desk. If it was under a certain dollar amount we would take a quick initial report and a detective would call the person back sometime later. I asked Grandma how much she had sent the scammers, expecting a couple hundred or maybe a thousand dollars.

She had sent them $50,000 dollars.

To save her grandson she’d emptied her entire savings account and sent it. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The scammers had hit the jackpot here. This was also a lot bigger than your usual $100 loss that gets closed due to lack of solvability factors.

We ended up with a patrolman, detective, and detective supervisor coming in to speak with Grandma. I followed up with the detective a couple months later out of curiosity. Despite their best efforts and even bringing in the FBI for help we unsurprisingly never could find the bad guys.

Ride The Pine is a new special feature written by a veteran dispatcher using the pseudonym Jacob Tyrell. Tyrell has been a dispatcher in a larger US city and seen it all over the years. Some of the series will be serious, some funny, and hopefully a little educational. All of the names, phrases, locations, and agency specific information has been changed (and is constantly mixed up) for anonymity.