KINGSPORT — An elaborate bitcoin scam that involved an Uber picking up a convenience store employee and taking her to a bitcoin depository to deposit store funds has led Kingsport police to issue a warning.
Authorities said Tuesday they still do not know if the scam was perpetrated by someone locally, out of state or out of country.
“At this time, we do not have any suspects whatsoever, so it is impossible to know if they were local or not,” said Tom Patton, public information officer for the Kingsport Police Department. “Having said that, it is not at all unusual for scams to be perpetrated by someone located in another city, state or even country than the victim.”
The highly planned scam started on Saturday morning, authorities said.
According to police, an employee at a local convenience store received a call from someone claiming to be from corporate headquarters.
The caller told the employee to take all the money from the register and safe and transport it to a location that had a bitcoin depository. The employee was instructed to deposit the money.
Police said the caller texted the employee a bitcoin deposit QR code and then sent an Uber to pick her up.
Police said the store lost $4,500 after the employee deposited the money.
Patton said bitcoin is becoming more prevalent as a factor in fraud and scam investigations and said there had been reports of other scams.
He said green dot money cards were the preferred form of payment requested by con artists. But that has changed.
“Bitcoin seems to be the new go-to form of payment as it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to recover the funds once they are released from the victim,” Patton said.
The Kingsport Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division is currently looking into the incident.
Patton said federal or state agencies would be called to help, if warranted.
“Our detectives will certainly enlist the assistance of other local, state or federal law enforcement agencies if we believe it will help with an investigation,” he said.