AS new technologies advance the way we live and work, the Surrey RCMP are warning that scammers are also using technology to advance their scams.
Police are seeing a variety of ways that criminals are duping unsuspecting persons out of their money using phone spoofing technology and bitcoin payments. Typical victims include the elderly and those new to Canada.
Recently, the Surrey RCMP were contacted after a woman sent money to an anonymous account and then realized she had been defrauded. The victim received a phone call that appeared to be coming from her husband’s cell phone. The male caller identified himself as a police officer, and told the victim that her husband had been arrested and bail money was required to secure his release. The fraudster coached the victim into electronically depositing $4,800 into an anonymous account. The woman’s husband came home shortly afterwards and she realized she had been tricked.
“What’s unique in this instance is the victim was coerced into depositing ‘bitcoin’ into the fraudster’s anonymous account,” says Cpl. Scotty Schumann. “Bitcoin, a digital form of currency and payment, is extremely hard to track. We are also seeing fraudsters continuing to impersonate government agencies like the RCMP, Canada Revenue Agency and Canadian Border Services Agency. They often demand payment in the form of gift cards, money transfers or bitcoin so the payment is difficult for law enforcement to track.”
This isn’t the first time that bitcoin, impersonation, or spoofing (calls that appear to be coming from local or familiar numbers to trick people into answering the phone and trusting the caller) have been used. Since January of this year, Surrey RCMP has received at least 14 reports where bitcoin was used as the payment form in a fraud. Phone spoofing and impersonation are even more common.
One way to protect yourself is by calling the agency back at a number that is publicly known and not one that they are providing to verify the information they are telling you. Also, never provide payment to agencies in the form of gift cards or bitcoin, as government organizations would never ask for payment in these forms.
For more information on scam and fraud prevention, visit the Surrey RCMP’s website. If you are a victim of fraud, contact your local police and report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre online.