A Sydney-based woman has been arrested over the alleged theft of almost half a million dollars-worth of cryptocurrency.
The 23 year-old from Epping was nabbed by police following a raid at a home on Thursday morning.
The arrest followed a 10-month investigation into the theft of 100,000 units of Ripple from an electronic account belonging to a man in his 50s.
At the time, the total value of the cryptocurrency was AU$450,000, however given the unstable nature of cryptocurrency, the price has since plunged to a little over AU$45,000 at time of publish.
The victim, a 56-year-old man, noticed his balance was near zero after he had been locked out of his account for two days in mid-January. He believed his email account had been hacked a month earlier.
Victoria Police earlier this month warned against falling for a scam that saw four people lose a total of AU$50,000 after depositing funds into a bitcoin ATM.
The Maribyrnong Crime Investigation Unit said the four victims from the eastern suburbs were told that they owed a tax debt and that if they did not pay up, they would be arrested.
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) issued its own warning earlier this year, asking the public to err on the side of caution when it comes to the elusive cryptocurrency space, after it revealed that over AU$50,000 was paid via bitcoin to scammers last year claiming fake ATO tax debts.
“Cryptocurrency operates in a virtual world, and, once the scammers receive payment, it’s virtually impossible to get it back,” assistant commissioner Kath Anderson said in a statement at the time.
“Scammers are constantly adapting their methods to maximise their chances of picking your pocket. Unfortunately, it was inevitable that scammers would target cryptocurrency given its current popularity and anonymity.”
As the ATO does not have transparency over what cryptocurrency is owned by taxpayers — Austrac only recently got the legislative approval to monitor digital currency for anti-money laundering purposes — it’s unclear why those in possession of bitcoin thought the taxation office would require them to pay via non-Australian dollars for an individual debt.
A report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in May found that many Australians fell victim to cryptocurrency scams last year, with approximately AU$2.1 million in losses accrued by those chasing the digital currency dream or paying a virtual ransom.
“Scammers adapt each year and find ways to exploit popular trends, new platforms, new ways of communicating, fad products, changes to legislation, or new investment opportunities,” the ACCC wrote.
An example is paying ransomware through bitcoin.
The Bureau of Meteorology pulled ‘fake news’ bitcoin advertisements and helped the AFP with its investigations into staff mining cryptocurrency in February 2018, but its CEO said the incidents weren’t related.
Carbon Black research suggests that as interest in cryptocurrency rises, so does the market for weapons to steal it.
The warning comes after four people lost AU$50,000 to the cryptocurrency scam.
Malware targeting cryptocurrency-based ATMs commands high prices in the underground.
The cryptocurrency, and its underpinning blockchain, have serious implications for the business world, too.