Facebook users in Australia are being tricked into handing over money as scammers use the social media site to demand bitcoin or iTunes gift cards as payment.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), thieves are hiding behind familiar organizations that the general public are likely to trust such as utilities and telecommunication agencies.

In a report from SBS, a regional news site, Australians had lost over AU$70 million to scams by October’s end.

However, according to Delia Rickard, ACCC deputy chair, this figure doesn’t represent the overall number of scams that target Australians. Not only that, but nowadays, scammers are changing the tactics that they use when targeting their victims.

Payment in Bitcoin

With the introduction of bitcoin cyber criminals are now demanding this as a form of payment from their victims instead of the traditional wire transfer. Scammers seem to particularly prefer payment in bitcoin when they deploy ransomware as computers need to be unlocked. In many cases this can cost victims hundreds and thousands of dollars to retrieve the keys from the thieves.

Last August, research from Check Point discovered that the sophisticated organization of Cerber, a Ransom-as-a-Service (RaaS), was reported to have had a total estimated profit of $195,000 in July alone from ransom payments from victims.

At the time of reporting researchers stated that the average ransom payment was one bitcoin, which at the time was worth around $590 to decrypt files locked by the Cerber ransomware. If the deadline was not met, then the ransom was doubled to two bitcoins.

In June, an improved version of CryptXXX ransomware raked in 70 bitcoins, worth more than $45,000 in three weeks at the time, after fixing a crypto flaw that allowed victims to recover their data for free.

While a Canadian university was ordered to pay a bitcoin ransom totaling around CAD$20,000 to obtain the decryption keys to restore its data.

Bitcoin and Scams

With the introduction of the digital currency, bitcoin, it seems that thieves are focusing more attention on how to get their victims to hand over the currency.

With its worth now over $1,000 for one bitcoin, the digital currency is proving quite profitable to those who want to get their hands on it in unscrupulous ways.

While bitcoin is making headway as an alternative form of currency for those who want to break away from traditional banking methods, it seems that scammers will also continue to demand payments in the digital currency until better forms of protection can be offered to potential victims.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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