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Cryptocurrency fraud ‘exploding’ in Canada, according to consumer advocacy groups

Click to play video: 'Calgary woman warns others after losing $2,500 in cryptocurrency investment'
Calgary woman warns others after losing $2,500 in cryptocurrency investment
WATCH: A Calgary woman who is out $2,500 following a cryptocurrency investment is now warning others to be careful who they give their money to. As Tomasia DaSilva reports, consumer advocacy groups say crypto fraud is “exploding” – Jan 24, 2022

An Alberta woman has another warning about so called “digital gold” and the rush to cash in on cryptocurrency.

A Calgary investor — new to cryptocurrency and crypto assets — told Global News she is out roughly $2,500 due to what she believes is fraudulent activity.

“I was being very adventurous and very unprepared for what I was investing in,” Isabelle Lévesque said.

“I trusted them. I can’t believe I got caught.”

Calgary investor warns others after losing $2,500 in crypto investment. Global Calgary

Lévesque said she found company TrueNorthBit, a cryptocurrency exchange platform, while looking online a few months ago. She reached out and the company was quick to respond. She said she continued to get calls from the company regularly over the next few weeks.

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“They kept insisting on talking to me on the phone,” she said. “They wanted to get to know me better.”

Lévesque said company representatives gained her trust, so she trusted them with her money. Especially, she added, when she started seeing returns.

“The profits just kept growing every day. At one point, just within two weeks, I had made $200 in profit.”

But then Lévesque said she was pressured to invest more — thousands more. She said she was told if she didn’t put in about $10,000 total, she would be transferred to a more junior advisor and would not see the returns she had been seeing.

She refused and instead decided to start the process of taking all of her money out — with the help, she said, of TrueNorthBit.

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“This lady called me and started to direct me to do all kinds of transactions that I didn’t understand,” Lévesque said.

“The balance that night, the balance on my account that I could see online, was zero.”

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Lévesque sent email after email to the company, which Global News has obtained.

In one them she asks: “What did you do to my account? You didn’t call me back as scheduled on Dec. 24 and my account with TrueNorthBit shows $0. I didn’t receive my money.”

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An email response from the support department at TrueNorthBit reads: “As we can see, you have lost the amount due to trading activities, please check your closed positions for further information.”

Lévesque is adamant she did not trade anything and added she just did what the representative told her to do.

Global News tried to contact TrueNorthBit for a response to her claims. We sent numerous emails directly to the representatives that were in charge of handling Lévesque’s accounts. We also called both the Canadian and UK phone numbers listed on the emails, but we did not get any response.

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BBB warning

The Better Business Bureau Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay told Global News it has not received any other complaints about this specific company, but it has received eight other complaints about crypto investing.

“It’s kind of the wild west in the crypto asset market right now,” the BBB’s Wes Lafortune said. “It’s a big problem. It’s exploding.”

Lafortune said the median loss is $600 but he added there has actually been millions of dollars of losses due to cryptocurrency schemes and fraud in Canada.

Lafortune added the regulations around crypto investing are starting to “catch up” but he said real change is still a long way’s off. He suggested investors do their research, get investment advice from someone they trust, and don’t be in a hurry or feel pressured to invest.

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“It’s a bit of the gold rush mentality,” he pointed out. “People want to make a quick buck and there’s promises of huge profit, huge gains and those usually don’t materialize.”

“Bottom line is don’t invest in a crypto asset unless you can afford to lose the money.”

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Alberta Securities Commission alert

The Alberta Securities Commission (ASC) told Global News it is also aware of parties engaging in fraudulent investment schemes, including some in relation to crypto assets/cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin.

It and the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) recently issued alerts to investors warning of the dangers.

The ASC said it is focused on educating Albertans about investing, including investing in crypto assets, adding they are very high risk and not suitable for all investors. It has also added a number of resources on its site to help investors check which sites are registered.

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It also strongly encouraged Albertans to ignore unsolicited crypto asset investment offers received online or through social media.

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