Google ceases BPO partnership after Bitcoin gift card scam

Employees were caught taking money out of Google gift cards and converting them to Bitcoin for their own keeping

Image of Google gift cards in a store
The gift card transfers appeared to have been occurring over the span of several years

Google has pulled outsourced work from a Philippine contact center when employees were found to have been involved in a Bitcoin scam.

Google confirmed it has halted its requests for work from the Cebu-based business process outsourcing firm Sykes, after a handful of employees were caught converting online gift certificate cards into Bitcoin (BTC).

“We are constantly assessing our business needs and have decided to shift this business to another vendor in the Philippines,” a spokesperson from Google explained.

Authorities first caught on to traces of their criminal activity in early August, when three Sykes employees in Cebu were discovered to have siphoned away over 60 million pesos (approximately $1.23 million) worth of Google online gift cards. They had converted it into BTC over an extended period of time.

Sykes, which is based in Florida, admitted that the scam had taken place but highlighted that the company had cracked down on the culprit employees immediately.

“In the past few months, we learned that a small number of employees violated our standards of conduct. We took swift action on those employees in accordance with company policies,” the BPO firm said.

How they dealt with the three individuals and whether the company filed criminal charges against them was not disclosed.

Sykes denied claims circulating on social media saying that over 300 employees lost their jobs after the incident, stating that the employees who were not directly involved in the criminal activity were transferred to other accounts around the company.

“While there have been business changes that may have impacted some groups, we have ensured that all our hardworking employees are reassigned to other programs.”

The company has reiterated that it has a comprehensive set of policies and procedures to prevent, identify and handle cases of fraud inside the organisation.

“We value the trust that our clients and employees put in us and will continue operating with the highest standards of quality and professionalism.”

Cryptocurrency scams are being highlighted in the midst of the pandemic, particularly on platforms such as Google and YouTube. In March of this year, Google Ads was promoting a fake Ledger Wallet extension  designed to steal crypto from users.

YouTube is also struggling with the management of crypto scams; with CEO of Ripple Labs, Brad Garlinghouse, filing a lawsuit on the platform for promoting a fake airdrop from an account that impersonated him.
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