Strathcona County RCMP in Alberta are currently investigating two Bitcoin scams. In both instances, the fraudsters contacted the victims by phone claiming to be a police officer and demanded they deposit money into a Bitcoin machine.
Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, meaning there is no centralized agency that regulates it. It has gained prominence in internet culture due to this, as well as popularity with libertarians. Due to the lack of regulations, it is a common currency for nefarious actors such as terrorist organizations, crime rings and scammers. Despite this, it remains popular, with growing legitimacy. In 2019, Innisfil, Ont., began accepting Bitcoin for property tax payments.
Two Bitcoin scams have recently been reported in Alberta.
The first victim received a call from someone claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency and a second male who stated he was an RCMP officer. The fraudsters threatened arrest if the funds were not paid immediately. The victim was instructed to withdraw cash and deposit into a Bitcoin machine. The victim lost $12,000 as a result of this scam.
The second victim received a call from a male who stated he was an RCMP officer. The caller claimed the victim’s social insurance number had been compromised and there were several fraud allegations pending. The victim was instructed to take money out of the bank and deposit into a Bitcoin machine for safekeeping while the fraud allegations were investigated. The victim lost over $21,000 as a result of this scam.
Since Bitcoin is not regulated by a central body, it is impossible for victims to get their money back once it has been deposited into a machine and transferred to a “virtual wallet.”
“There is no circumstance where police will contact individuals requesting bitcoin,” said Const. Chantelle Kelly of the Strathcona County RCMP. “These scammers typically contact hundreds of people hoping that someone will send them money.”
To protect yourself from scams, Bitcoin-related or otherwise, you should not transfer money without verifying the identity of the person calling. A good protection against these scams is to inform a suspicious caller that you will be calling a verified number (for example, a listed number on the CRA’s website) to ensure your safety — a legitimate officer of the CRA or RCMP will understand the precaution.
For more information on scams, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre online at antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca or toll free at 1-888-495-8501.
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