Bitcoin, CRA, and telemarketing scams in Metro Vancouver, Whistler and Squamish, and Vancouver Island

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      Despite attempts by police and media to raise awareness about scams numerous times over the years, victims continue to fall prey to these schemes.

      As a number of cases have surfaced in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island over the past few weeks, here’s a look at some types of fraudulent calls that citizens have been receiving, and resources offering advice about protecting yourself.

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      Bitcoin scams

      Several Bitcoin scams have been previously reported in the Lower Mainland.

      In October, the Delta Police Department stated that a newcomer to Canada lost $6,000 after being instructed to purchase Bitcoins by someone claiming to be from the Department of Services Canada.

      Back in November, Coquitlam RCMP found that from August to October 2019, 14 cases of telephone Bitcoin scams had defrauded citizens of over $66,000.

      In spite of media reports about these crimes, yet another case has surfaced in Whistler.

      Around 11 a.m. on February 4, a victim contacted Whistler RCMP about being defrauded of thousands of dollars.

      The victim had reportedly received a call from a 1-800 number. The caller falsely advised the victim that their social insurance number had been compromised and that someone was committing criminal acts using their name and number.

      The victim was advised that they would need to speak to a police officer, and was then transferred to someone who falsely identified themselves as a police officer.

      The real transfer number was masked by a fake caller ID that displayed Whistler RCMP as the caller.

      The fake police officer confirmed the victim’s address and stated that they would be arrested that afternoon unless they followed directions.

      The victim was told that in order to avoid arrest, they would need to deposit a substantial amount of money into a local Bitcoin machine with a QR code that was provided.

      The victim was also instructed to purchase Google Play gift cards, and to identify the security number on the back of the cards to provide them to the caller.

      Whistler RCMP stated that they have been investigating type of call since October 2019.

      Whistler RCMP stated that RCMP will never demand anyone pay Bitcoin or purchase gift cards to deal with a police matter.

      “If you are ever contacted by someone claiming to be a police officer and you have any doubt as to the truthfulness of that caller, we advise that you will call the police yourself,” Whistler RCMP state. “Hang up and call the police detachment and ask to speak to the officer in question.”

      Police also advise calling from a different phone line in case the caller has not been completed disconnected after hanging up and is still on the line.

      More tips and information about scams and how to protect yourself are available at the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website.

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      Income tax scams

      Squamish RCMP stated that a citizen reported that he had received a call on February 1 from an unknown female caller who said she was from the Canada Revenue Agency, that the citizen was wanted on a warrant for arrest for a number of frauds, and that an RCMP investigator would contact him.

      The caller ID falsely displayed Squamish RCMP, and it was a fraudulent call.  

      Squamish RCMP stated that the Canada Revenue Agency and RCMP do not conduct business in this manner. Police recommend contacting or attending businesses or agencies directly if you have any questions.

      Similar types of scams were also reported in Coquitlam in September, and in Vancouver, Surrey, and Kelowna in October.

      With tax season approaching, North Vancouver RCMP issued a reminder on February 6 that they observe an increase in mail thefts and fraud schemes related to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and income taxes from February to April.

      North Vancouver RCMP Sgt. Peter DeVries stated that telephone scams often begin with an automated, computerized voice that instructs an individual to press number one for an important announcement from the CRA. Doing so will connect the victim to a fake CRA agent who will ask the victim for their name. After that, they will speak in an aggressive manner, quote fake file numbers, and cite false rules about courts and judges. They will make the victim feel targeted and stressed out, with the only way to avoid being arrested by paying fine.

      RCMP are reminding citizens that the CRA won’t call, leave a voice message, text, or email and threaten you to pay a tax debt or a warrant of an arrest for a tax debt; won’t ask you to pay a tax debt through gift cards or cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin; or have you deported if you don’t pay a tax debt.

      Some scammers may simply impersonate police in attempts to obtain financial information.

      For instance, Sunshine Coast RCMP stated that on January 24, a resident reported that a caller claiming to be a police officer asked her to provide personal information, including her social insurance number.

      However, when the officer asked her for her name, she became suspicious, hung up, and contacted police.

      Due to the information she provided to the caller, RCMP advised her to contact her bank and credit card companies and a credit-monitoring service to avoid any fraudulent accounts created in her name.  

      Meanwhile in Metro Vancouver, Richmond RCMP also stated on January 24 that they had received a report about a male caller who claimed to be a police officer, and provided a fake name and badge number.

      More information about scams is available on webpages from Canada Post, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, and RCMP.

      Information is also available in Arabic, Chinese (simplified or traditional), English, French, Punjabi, Spanish, and Tagalog at the Canadian government's Little Black Book of Scams website as well.

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      Telemarketing scams

      On January 23, the Saanich Police Department (SPD) stated that a savvy senior contacted them on January 22 to report a scam phone call.

      The 90-year-old citizen alleged that the male caller (described as having “a very strong accent”), claimed to be from the regional health authority and was speaking to seniors about the benefits of vitamins, and he recommended that she purchase some natural Vitamin B products.

      The citizen, sensing that the call was a scam, asked “Aren’t all vitamins natural?”, which prompted the caller to hang up.

      The call was traced to a 289 phone extension in Hamitlon, Ontario, but upon call back, the number was out of service. An online query revealed that the number was related to similar scams.

      The SPD stated that Island Health confirmed they don’t contact people to sell products by phone and that anyone who receives this type of phone call should contact police about it.

      More information about telemarketing scams is available at the CRTC website

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