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No, the government doesn’t accept Bitcoin, warns RCMP amid surge in scams

Police are warning of an uptick in fraud where scammers convince their victims to pay with Bitcoin.
Police are warning of an uptick in fraud where scammers convince their victims to pay with Bitcoin. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Gillian Flaccus

Coquitlam RCMP are issuing a public warning amid another surge in phone scams where fraudsters convince their victims to pay with Bitcoin.

From August to October, Coquitlam RCMP say they have documented 14 cases of phone frauds involving Bitcoin, with victims losing more than $66,000.

READ MORE: Close to $30,000 lost in bitcoin CRA scam in Kingston, say police

The popular cryptocurrency is a favourite of fraud artists because once it has been transmitted, it is essentially untraceable.

Investigators say they have had reports of the scammers identifying themselves as representatives of the Canada Revenue Agency, Service Canada, BC Hydro and the Department of Justice.

Tips to avoid bitcoin scams
Tips to avoid bitcoin scams

“We’ve even had criminals claiming to be local RCMP,” said Coquitlam RCMP Cpl. Michael McLaughlin.

READ MORE: Winnipeg cops cracking down on bitcoin scam

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“The best advice I can give is to get the basic details and then hang up. Take a few minutes to breathe, then talk to someone you trust before you do anything.”

Police say the most common victims are college-age and elderly people, as well as new Canadians.

Investigators are debunking a number of the myths the scammers use to exploit their victims:

  • Canada does not have “magistrates,” and if someone presents themselves as one in a call, it is a scam.
  • You cannot be arrested in Canada for any kind of late payments.
  • You cannot use Bitcoin to pay taxes or fines.
  • You cannot use gift cards to pay taxes or fines.
  • Any caller asking you to go to a “cash machine” is likely a scammer, especially if they offer to talk you through the use of the machine.

Police say the scam callers rely on panic and pressure tactics to defraud their victims. If the caller won’t let you hang up and call back later, it is a scam, police say.

Anyone who believes they are a target or victim of fraud is urged to contact their local police and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.