Saint John police issued a warning to residents this week after a rash of cryptocurrency scams in the city.
A release issued by the police force says they’ve responded to “at least five separate occurrences” of cryptocurrency-related scams since the beginning of May that caused “tens of thousands of dollars in losses.”
According to provincial RCMP, the problem is happening all over New Brunswick, and it is getting worse.
“We have to be vigilant with who calls us and who’s soliciting stuff from us online,” said Cpl. Hans Ouellette of New Brunswick RCMP.
“But we also have to be really conscious of some of our most vulnerable populations — maybe our youth, who are not used to getting these types of calls or dealing with financial institutions, and also our elderly. We need to speak to them about these types of things.”
According to New Brunswick RCMP’s annual report from 2020, the force answered 3,756 calls for fraud within their provincial jurisdiction, up 40.99 per cent from the year before.
And that doesn’t account for cities like Saint John or Fredericton, which are policed by their own force.
Some of the most common iterations of these scams involve scammers calling people, pretending to be their financial institution, the Canada Revenue Agency or even the police.
Ouellette says in any instance where someone contacts you asking for personal information and you’re not 100 per cent sure of who you’re dealing with, hang up or disconnect, making contact at a later point through means you’re confident in.
That means looking up the CRA customer service line on the agency’s official website, going to speak to your financial advisor in person, etc.
Verification is especially important when cryptocurrency is involved. Transactions using bitcoin or other forms of crypto are harder to trace and the funds are even harder to recover.
Fredericton-based cybersecurity startup Gray Wolf Analytics deals in protecting crypto users every day.
“Scammers are awful people and they take advantage of the kind of the trust that people give others,” said co-founder Matt Sampson.
He said in one case, a person acted as a mentor to someone just getting into the crypto game, offering to manage the person’s investments and such, even getting them to bring their family and friends into it before taking off with their money.
Sampson said he’s seen cases of fraud amounting in losses of up to seven figures.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre offers a whole host of advice for protecting yourself from fraud, including cryptocurrency.
It’s also where those who worry they may be, or have been, made victim of a scam can file a report.
The centre says a recent trend has seen scammers gain control of Instagram accounts, post fake stories about high returns, and attempt to lure one’s friends and families into the fraud.
The centre’s webpage advises being suspicious of:
- unsolicited investment opportunities (even from friends and family)
- higher-than-normal returns
- fake cryptocurrency websites
- high-pressure tactics
- requests for cryptocurrency payments