The FBI has issued a warning against fraudulent schemes that employ the use of cryptocurrency ATMs and QR codes for payment. 

“The FBI has seen an increase in scammers directing victims to use physical cryptocurrency ATMs and digital QR codes to complete payment transactions,” the FBI said in a public service announcement

According to the FBI, these fraudulent schemes involve online impersonation schemes, romance schemes, and lotteries. 

Regardless of the type of scheme involved, however, the FBI said the methods of using cryptocurrency ATMs and QR codes are familiar. 


The anatomy of a scam

According to the FBI, the scammer often requests payment from the victim and, in turn, directs them to a cryptocurrency ATM, equipped with a QR code associated with the scammer’s wallet. 

“Cryptocurrency’s decentralized nature creates challenges that makes it difficult to recover,” the FBI said, adding that once a victim makes a payment, the scammer “instantly owns the cryptocurrency, and often immediately transfers the funds into an account overseas.” 

This, of course, differs from a traditional wire transfer where payments take a day or two before they are settled. “It can also make law enforcement’s recovery of the funds difficult and can leave many victims with a financial loss,” the FBI added.

Tips to protect yourself

To accompany the warning, the FBI shared points for individuals to protect themselves from crypto ATM-related scams. 


The tips echo some of the oldest advice when it comes to financial security. They include not sending payments to people you have only spoken to online and not responding to callers from unknown telephone numbers. 

In addition, the FBI advises people not to use cryptocurrency ATMs that advertise anonymity. 

“These cryptocurrency ATMs may be non-compliant with U.S. federal regulations and may facilitate money laundering,” the FBI said, adding that instructions to use these anonymous crypto ATMs are “a significant indicator of fraud.”

Stay on top of crypto news, get daily updates in your inbox.