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Crypto scams, other fraud on the rise in BC

Police are warning about increasing fraud, including cryptocurrency investor scams.

Surrey police say last year crypto scammers stole $12 million from city residents in nearly 230 reported cases. They have already received 50 reports of crypto scams this year, costing people $3.2 million, a significant increase from last year.

The scammers convince people to invest in a cryptocurrency business, then vanish as soon as the victims try and cash out.

In Powell River, RCMP have a similar warning. Last year there were more than 100 fraud complaints in total, defrauding locals out of tens of thousands of dollars. Last week alone there were three.

Surrey Police highlighted the most common scams that are currently circulating.

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Job Scams

There has also been a significant increase in job scams involving cryptocurrency with 18 reports to the Surrey RCMP in 2024.

The job scams involve the scammers impersonating legitimate companies and asking the applicant for payment of supplies or to begin training. These fake jobs are often for reviewing products, websites or crypto trading and will request funds to be sent in cryptocurrency with promises to send money back to the victim.

Job scams may also involve receiving e-transfers, wire transfers, or cheques as part of the job, and the victim is asked to send the money to the ‘employer’. This is referred to as a ‘money mule’ and is used by organized crime groups to launder proceeds of crime.

Grandparent Scam

Scammers call seniors claiming to be family members or police and need immediate bail money to release a family member. The scammer will often send someone to their residence to collect the payment via cash, credit card, or debit card. The RCMP and courts will never call and ask for money, or send a courier to collect money. Bail payments or fines are paid at a police station or courthouse.

Rental Scams

Scammers will ask prospective renters for deposits to be sent by e-transfers without meeting in person or viewing the property. The postings are often AI generated and use information from other listings. Do not provide a deposit without signing a tenancy agreement and confirming the property owner’s identity.

Bank Scams

The fraudster impersonates a bank employee to ask you to assist in an investigation or advises there has been illegal activity with your bank account. Often the scammer will request money to be sent via crypto or gift cards. Do not send any money and attend your local bank branch.

Cellphone Scams

Phone calls and texts are received from spoofed phone numbers with someone pretending to be from a phone company and offering deals on iPhones. The fraudsters use these scams to gather personal and financial information to commit fraud and identity theft.

Fake Bank Drafts

Buyers of vehicles and luxury items, such as watches and designer handbags are providing bank drafts as payment. A recent surge in reports of fraudulent drafts has been reported where these bank drafts appear authentic and are of such high quality, they are often unnoticed by banks as being counterfeit. For these types of payments, it is recommended to attend the issuing bank with the purchaser to be able to confirm the validity of the bank draft.

More resources

The BC Securities Commission offers resources to help protect against investment fraud on their website: investright.org. The website provides insights and resources to educate and protect investors in BC, including the Investment Caution List, a searchable list of unregistered and unqualified Investments being offered in BC.

Websites, email addresses and phone numbers are often spoofed. Exercise caution and always take a close look at spelling and for variations of the legitimate business names and websites.

If you have provided personal information, such as your Driver License, Passport, or SIN; contact Equifax and TransUnion, the two main credit bureaus in Canada to prevent potential fraud. It is important to monitor your credit report for signs of identity theft and check for any unauthorized credit checks or applications.

For a list of current scams, or to report fraud online, visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

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