Authorities warn against prevalent bitcoin scams

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January 29, 2020 – The Alberta RCMP and the Abbotsford Police issued warnings against prevalent bitcoin scams. The authorities make an effort to stop scammers from defrauding people out of their money using bitcoin frauds. Typically for the phone scams, the fraudsters are impersonating agents from a government organization requesting payment in Bitcoin. For this purpose, the Alberta RCMP launched a public education poster campaign. The posters will be placed at Bitcoin machines in rural locations throughout the province warning against the fraudsters’ schemes.

Phone scams come in various types using diverse narratives. But, they all have one thing in common: They all try to defraud people out of their money. As a matter of fact, scammers evolve their scams over time, which makes it harder to stay up to date on current schemes. For that reason, Alberta RCMP and the Abbotsford Police issued warnings to inform the public about so-called bitcoin scams that have been prevalent for a while throughout Canada.

‘Fraudsters continue to trick, exploit and manipulate the public.’

Phone scammers use different narratives requesting payments while they impersonate an agent from a government organization. A widespread and persistent scheme is the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) scam. Typically, the calling scammer who poses as a CRA employee would tell the victim that they have made miscalculations in their income tax filing. Consequently, a warrant has been issued for the victim’s arrest on fraud charges, according to the fraudster.

Then, the scammer provides an exit strategy and asks the victim to pay a portion of the owned money right away and the arrest warrant will be stopped. In doing so, the scammer asks the victim to deposit the payment through bitcoin.

Read more: RCMP warn against CRA Bitcoin Scam

Since October 2019, only in Abbotsford, nine residents have fallen victim to a bitcoin scam and lost in total $68,440 to fraudsters. They ‘continue to trick, exploit and manipulate the public,’ stated the Abbotsford Police in a statement and reminded that ‘[t]he caller is NOT from a police agency, the Canada Revenue Agency, Social Insurance office or an immigration officer. These agencies will never call you to threaten you with arrest.’

Bitcoin scam warning posters

The Alberta RCMP made an effort to stop victims making bitcoin payments to fraudsters with their current public education poster campaign. The warning posters will be placed at bitcoin machines in rural locations throughout Alberta in cooperation with the businesses hosting the machines.

The posters which were created by the RCMP Strategic Communications New Media team warn bitcoin machine users to ‘NOT deposit cash to a Bitcoin address[es] that [they] do not control.’

Bitcoin warning poster by the Alberta RCMP.

‘We felt that we needed to take one more step in educating potential victims and stopping them from making that irretrievable payment,’ said Staff Sergeant Rob Marsollier of the Red Deer RCMP. ‘We know that Edmonton Police Service has done similar posters, and if it stops even one person from losing their savings, then it’s a success.’

‘Bitcoin is a perfect tool for fraudsters as Bitcoin transactions are unregulated, untraceable and accessible worldwide, making it difficult to investigate the frauds,’ explained the Abbotsford police. That means for victims that it is impossible to get their deposited funds back.

Additionally, the CRA informs on their website that the agency will never ‘demand immediate payment by Interac e-transfer, bitcoin, prepaid credit cards or gift cards from retailers such as iTunes, Amazon, or others.’

Protect yourself and others against bitcoin scams

The Abbotsford police advise the public to stay up-to-date on current fraud schemes and be pro-active by educating family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers on the existing threats in order to protect yourself and others. Moreover, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre advises not to open unsolicited emails when the sender is unknown.

If you have fallen victim to a bitcoin scam or any other scam you’re advised to contact RCMP immediately at 780-467-7741.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre estimates that less than 5% of mass marketing fraud is ever reported. Anyone who has not fallen victim to fraud is encouraged to report the incident to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre online at antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca or toll-free at 1-888-495-8501.