Calgary police warn of threatening text fraud scheme

In this Aug. 11, 2019, file photo, a man uses a cell phone in New Orleans. Calgary police are warning about a new text scam that uses threats and graphic imagery to get funds. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Jenny Kane

Calgary police are warning of a “new twist” on a mass-marketing fraud scheme.

In the scam, victims receive text messages from an international number claiming the victim owes hundreds or thousands of dollars for using personal services.

When a payment isn’t sent, the scammer sends the victim violent and graphic photos to try to intimidate the intended victim into sending payments. Police said subsequent messages can include threats to the person or their family’s wellbeing.

In the past six months, the Calgary Police Service has received 22 reports from Calgarians. And according to CPS, three victims have lost a combined $4,000.

Read more: Received a spam text recently? Here’s what you should know

CPS said, in most cases reported by the public, the fraudster uses the name Edgar Ortega Valdez and the phone number 562-579-8694.

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“Mass-marketing fraud is a crime that uses low or no-cost mass-marketing tools with a goal of defrauding the victims with a promise, story or threat,” said economic crimes unit Staff Sgt. Geoff Gawlinski. “As technology advances, so do the tactics of fraudsters, as they are able to cast a wide net to reach people around the world in hopes of capitalizing on the fear and emotions of potential victims.”

Police advise members of the public to report incidents in order to track crime trends and to be able to issue warnings.

Anyone who has suffered a financial loss from fraud should call the CPS non-emergency line at 403-266-1234.

Anyone who has received a fraudulent message but haven’t lost any money can report it to the Canadian Anti Fraud Centre.

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CPS said online extortion scams can be difficult to investigate with some scammers living in different jurisdictions.

Police said common red flags of scams like this include:

  • Misspelled email addresses, websites, links or spelling errors in the messages themselves
  • Suspicious attachments or links
  • Urgent requests with threats of legal action or physical harm if demands are not followed
  • Payment requested in the form of pre-paid gift cards, wire money transfers or other forms of non-secure payment
  • Requests of personal or financial information

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