Bitcoin phone scams rack up over $66,000 in losses from Metro Vancouver victims over three months

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      While many Canadians may think phone scams are easy to identify and numerous warnings have been issued about their recent increase, fraudsters have managed to bilk locals of thousands of dollars in recent months.

      Accordingly, RCMP are urging citizens to speak with vulnerable individuals in order to prevent these crimes from continuing.

      Coquitlam RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Michael McLaughlin stated in a news release today (November 8) that from August to October there have been 14 cases of telephone fraud involving Bitcoin, with total losses adding up to over $66,000.

      The most common victims are college aged, new Canadians, and seniors of all backgrounds, according to the Coquitlam RCMP.

      The latest scams involve callers who claim to be from government agencies, including the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), Service Canada, B.C. Hydro, the Department of Justice, or the RCMP.

      Coqutilam RCMP issued a list of red flags to look for in identifying a scam.

      If a caller claims that a magistrate has issued a warrant, that is a sign of a scam. Canada does not have magistrates, and the scammer may be calling from abroad, including places such as India.

      If a caller claims you will be arrested for not making a payment a time, that is false—a person won’t be arrested in Canada for a late payment of any kind.

      If a government agency won’t allow you to call back later, that is a sign of a scam, as fraudster rely on pressure tactics and inciting panic.

      B.C. government agencies do not accept Bitcoin, Google Play, Steam, iTunes, or other gift cards to pay taxes or fines. Any money transfers to government are handled by major banks, and will have a receipt issued. Cpl. McLaughlin advises that money, in any form, should not be sent under pressure to someone you don’t know.  

      If someone offers to guide or coach you by phone on how to use what appears to be a cash machine, it is probably a cryptocurrency or Bitcoin machine.

      Coquitlam RCMP issued this photo of a Port Coquitlam cryptocurrency machine that looks identical to a bank machine.
      Coquitlam RCMP

      Over on Vancouver Island, Nanaimo RCMP stated on November 7 that dozens of calls have recently been reporting phone scams, though no one fell victim to them.

      In this version of the scam, the callers appear to be from the CRA Service Canada, or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and claim that the victim’s Social Insurance Number (SIN) card has been compromised.

      In another variation, the caller says the victim either owes money to the CRA or is eligible for a cash refund, and that the local police will call within the hour. When the call does come through, the number will appear as a local police number through a technique called ID spoofing, in which a fake number is displayed while the real phone number is hidden.

      The caller may also try to convince the victim to provide a credit card number or to pay off the amount by purchasing gift cards or Bitcoins, and may also threaten the victim with being arrested.

      Nanaimo RCMP state that many of these calls originate in South Asia and sometimes other scammers can be heard in the background making similar calls to other victims.  

      The caller then asks for the victim’s SIN card number.

      Anyone who receives a scam call should hang up.

      To report deceptive or suspicious telemarketing, call the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or visit their website. Anyone who has been a victim of fraud should call their local police.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook