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Authorities: East Lyme senior victim of cryptocurrency scam allegedly stole $60,000 from her

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    EAST LYME — Scammers running a cryptocurrency scheme stole approximately $60,000 from an elderly resident, according to local police.

    While police receive reports of scams or attempted scams almost daily, Michael Finkelstein, chief of the East Lyme Police Department, said Monday, the sum represented the single biggest loss the department has seen to date.

    “The East Lyme Police Department urges residents to always keep themselves and their accounts safe, and use extreme caution when contacted and told to provide any funding to individuals,” Finkelstein said, later adding, “We are hopeful that continuing to shine a light on these constant scams will help keep our residents safe.”

    In late August, East Lyme police were contacted by a relative of the victim, identified only as a “senior citizen in the community,” according to Finkelstein. The relative informed police that the victim had received a call from a person alleging “fraudulent charges” had shown up on the victim’s bank account, Finkelstein said.

    The original caller then transferred the victim to a second person who claimed to be an attorney, according to Finkelstein. Providing instructions for repaying the supposed charges, Finkelstein said, the self-proclaimed attorney told the victim to withdraw a certain amount of money from the bank without telling anyone, including the police.

    If bank staff asked about the reason for the withdrawals, the self-proclaimed attorney said, the victim should tell them the money would be put toward purchasing a car or renovating an apartment, according to Finkelstein. Once in possession of the cash, the victim was directed to travel to a location in southeastern Connecticut to use a Bitcoin Depot machine to convert the cash to the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, Finkelstein said. The Bitcoin was then to be uploaded to a digital wallet, Finkelstein said.

    The person claiming to be an attorney contacted the victim on three additional occasions, according to Finkelstein. In total, Finkelstein said, approximately $60,000 was withdrawn and converted to Bitcoin. 

    East Lyme police collaborated with the Connecticut State Police’s Statewide Organized Crime Investigative Task Force, the New London State’s Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the scam, according to Finkelstein. Investigators were able to recover approximately $40,000 of the stolen funds, divided among multiple companies, but have not yet identified any suspects or their country of origin, Finkelstein said. 

    “In so many of these cases, life savings are stolen and not recoverable,” Finkelstein said.

    He advised people concerned about the validity of a call to contact family members or the police for assistance.

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