Calgarians have lost more than $22.5 million from 340 reported cryptocurrency scams so far this year, with many people lured in by the false prospect of high returns, police say.
That’s up 60 per cent from last year totals, when 321 reported scams bagged roughly $14 million from their victims.
Despite the “staggering” multimillion-dollar jump, police say the sum may even be higher as cryptocurrency scams are believed to be vastly underreported.
Police say while the majority of cryptocurrency is legitimate, “it is also a deregulated marketplace and has, at times, been used by scammers as a form of payment connected to various frauds.”
The department’s cyber forensics unit says the most common are investment scams that promise large returns on a person’s investments, convincing victims to keep sending more.
“Fraudsters often lure victims with promises of a quick way to make money,” Staff Sgt. Graeme Smiley said in a written statement.
Scammers also pursue victims with the promise of employment opportunities or romance. Some pose as financial institutions or government agencies, threatening penalties if money isn’t paid.
“For those who have fallen victim to a cryptocurrency fraud, we now have the Blockchain Investigative Team who are dedicated to investigating these types of scams,” Smiley added.
Calgary police said there are things to keep in mind in
evaluating whether something is a crypto scam.
They say the promise of “guaranteed” big profits or returns should be a red flag. Police also warn of social media friend requests or online dating apps that mention cryptocurrency investments.
Police say a crypto investment promise can also be a disguise to take over an account.
They add that only scammers will demand full payment upfront.
“Legitimate businesses, organizations and government agencies will not demand payment in advance, especially in cryptocurrency, over the phone, or use threats if payment is not received,” police said.
“If something seems suspicious, report it to local law enforcement.”
Earlier this year, CBC News reported that Albertans have also fallen prey to phone scammers.
Similar to other types of scammers, crypto scammers are difficult to track down, according to John Zabiuk, chair of the cybersecurity program at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.
Zubiak said scammers don’t usually operate in the same country where their victims are, preferring places where law enforcement is weak.
“That way, there’s going to be very little co-operation between law enforcement between the country where the attackers are and the country where the victim is,” he said.
“There’s little that can actually be done against the attacker. It’s very rare that you’ll be able to actually find the person running the scam and be able to do anything about it.”
Scam calls are also taking a toll on Albertans’ wallets.
Data from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre shows that in 2022 there were 849 reported victims of scam calls in Alberta, totalling more than $5.4 million.
In 2021, 757 Albertans lost $3.4 million and in 2020, 927 people lost $2.1 million. The data relies on what was reported to the centre.
This article was originally sourced from www.CBCNews.ca