Canadian Bitcoin Scammers Fool U.S. Citizen in $230K Twitter Spoof

Mark Emem @cointributor
August 23, 2019 11:21 UTC

By CCN Markets: Two Indo-Canadians are facing fraud and money laundering charges in the U.S. after they ripped an Oregonian off their Bitcoin worth over $200,000.

In a statement, U.S. Attorney in the District of Oregon Billy J. Williams indicated that Karanjit Singh Khatkar and Jagroop Singh Khatkar had committed wire fraud, money laundering as well as aggravated identity theft. This was with a view of stealing Bitcoin from an Oregonian whose identity was concealed. The scheme the two Indo-Canadians carried out started in October 2017.

‘Trust us, we are from HitBTC’

According to the indictment, the two men used the Twitter handle @HitBTCAssist, which they had created, to dupe unsuspecting victims that they were customer service representatives of Hong Kong-based crypto exchange HitBTC.

When the Oregonian posed questions to them over Twitter on the subject of withdrawing crypto from her HitBTC account, they managed to extract identifying information from her. They then used this information to access her email and subsequently her HitBTC account.

On an undisclosed date, the two transferred 23.2 Bitcoins from the victim’s HitBTC account. They split the amount by half.

Karanjit was arrested last month in Nevada and his trial is set to begin in October. Jagroop, on the other hand, is on the run and is believed to be hiding in Canada. Twitter has since suspended the HitBTCAssist account.

The scammers’ Twitter account has been suspended | Screenshot: Twitter

Same script, different Bitcoin scam

The scam perpetrated by the Khatkars comes at a time when cases of identity theft are on the rise.

In most of the reported cases that have hit the headlines though, the strategy used to take over cryptocurrency exchange accounts has been SIM-swapping or SIM hijacking. This is where a fraudster impersonates a legitimate cell phone subscriber and takes over their SIM card. If their victim is using two-factor authentication security controls, they then change passwords on email and bitcoin exchange accounts before siphoning the funds.

According to Javelin Strategy & Research, cases of cell phone number takeover nearly doubled between 2017 and 2018 with the cases increasing from 380,000 to 680,000. For fraudsters in the cryptocurrency space, SIM-swapping has proved to be lucrative.

Just last month, CCN reported the case of California teenagers stealing $35 million in crypto using the technique.