Have you ever received a sketchy email that demanded you pay the sender in Bitcoin? Or maybe iTunes gift cards? Why are these scammers so specific about how they get paid? It’s because these payment methods make it harder for you to get your funds back.
Banks, credit cards, and online payment platforms like PayPal all have a certain amount of protection built in for their customers. They offer ways to dispute payments, cancel checks, and request charge-backs, which can help you when you fall victim to a scam or have your wallet stolen.
Scammers, of course, don’t want you to be able to initiate a charge-back. So watch out for any request to pay with these payment methods.
Leave Cryptocurrency to the Experts
A lot of scammers ask for payment in Bitcoin because of its pseudonymous nature. Once you’ve sent the Bitcoin, it’s difficult if not impossible to track down who it went to and how they used it, let alone get your funds back. There are people in the community who specialize in this sort of thing, but they usually use it to track down funds lost in major hacks, not a single payment sent to an email extorter.
There are many legitimate businesses and individuals who accept cryptocurrency payments because they are plugged into that economy and industry. However, if you are not already well-versed in crypto, you should not be using it as a payment method.
Why Gift Cards, Though?
Just like cryptocurrency, gift cards have a level of anonymity built into them. Once you give someone a gift card, it’s out of your hands. The money is stored in the card, and there’s no real way to get your funds back.
But why do scammers ask for gift cards? Especially iTunes gift cards? Do they really need to buy that much music? Probably not. Chances are, they take those cards to one of those dodgy-looking stores you’ve driven past that offer to buy unwanted gift cards. It’s a ridiculously low-key method of money laundering.
Cash: The Original Anonymous Currency
Online scams tend to transact in digital currencies and gift cards. Sometimes bank transfers. They need a form of value that is easy to send online or through the mail, and easy for them to disperse as they wish. However, the anonymity of cryptocurrency and gift cards isn’t some new aspect of our economy. We’ve always had an anonymous, difficult-to-trace store of value. It’s called cash.
Surely, you’ve watched a crime movie or TV show where the bad guy demanded a ransom paid in “unmarked, non-sequential bills.” It’s because the villain knows the cash can’t be traced back to them. It will vanish into the economy.
Cash is difficult to mail, but some online scammers still ask to be paid in it. These scammers will either have you mail it bundled and disguised in a package, or have you drop it off with a mule. Scams that target the elderly often rely on a cash payment, since they may not trust their victims to have the tech savvy to buy and send cryptocurrency.
Play it Safe and Get Your Funds Back
Any time you’re laying out money and you have a suspicious feeling about it, try to use a method that gives you the option of getting your funds back. Beware anyone who demands payment in bitcoin, gift cards, or cold hard cash. Stay safe out there!
Interesting related article: “What is a Scam?“