Australians have been warned to stay away from suspicious-looking fake Bitcoin (BTC) paper wallets, which work by luring victims into accessing a lucrative crypto wallet but will ultimately drain them of their own crypto holdings.
According to a Nov. 22 post on the Facebook page of the NSW Police Force, the scam starts as a paper cryptocurrency wallet with a QR code, which is made to appear like a legitimate Bitcoin paper wallet.
These are strewn by scammers in public locations such as streets or parks.
An individual that locates the paper wallet and scans the QR code is directed to click on a link to access a crypto wallet with up to $16,000 Australian dollars ($10,000).
The person is then asked to pay a withdrawal fee and provide their own wallet credentials that will purportedly allow them to transfer the balance into their own crypto wallet.
“Once the withdrawal fee is paid and person’s crypto wallet details provided, the person's cryptocurrency is stolen from their crypto wallets,” explained the NSW police.
The authorities have advised the public to stay vigilant, and that anybody who finds a paper crypto wallet similar to this should not attempt to scan the QR code, access the account, or supply their private information.
Instead, they should surrender the wallet to their local police station.
This is not Australia’s first instance of a paper crypto wallet scam. Over three months ago, a user on Reddit created a thread reporting they had found a paper crypto wallet and flagged it as a possible scam.
Dozens of other people from all over the country responded with their own stories of finding paper crypto wallets in the street, on the beach and at parks.
One user, Pinnymc, commented they almost fell for it because they could see the wallet address and the transactions on-chain. They said the website also appeared genuine.
However, Pinnymc says they became suspicious because of the 0.5% transaction fee.
“If this was a legit wallet I should be able to withdraw and the transaction fee comes out of the balance. It’s such a shame because this looks so legit,” said the user.
Australians have already proven to be particularly susceptible to investment and crypto-related scams this year, losing 242.5 million Australian dollars to scammers so far in 2022, according to data from the Australian consumer watchdog’s Scamwatch website.
The country’s federal law enforcement agency has also highlighted the criminal use of crypto as an “emerging threat” but says it's a challenge to keep pace with criminals who are constantly changing tactics and methods.