Manitobans are targeted in cryptocurrency scams: securities commission

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A Winnipeg woman fell victim to a cryptocurrency investment scam which led to her maxing out her credit card and losing $18, 000.

She reported the scam to Jason Roy, a senior investigator at the Manitoba Securities Commission.

The Winnipeg victim told Roy she had been pitched an investment opportunity — essentially a “get-rich-quick” scheme. She used cash advances on her credit card to access funds which were then converted into cryptocurrency — and soon gone for good.

“We’ve got Manitobans that have lost … $250 — and some realize what’s gone on at that point — and all the way up to 600,000 [dollars] in certain cases,” Roy said. “We’ve had individuals who lose that amount.”  

Roy confirmed that there are legitimate registered firms that sell cryptocurrency in Canada; however, potential investors need to do research. It’s recommend to speak to a financial professional who is registered with the securities commission if you want to invest.

The commission wants to break the stigma that comes with being a victim and raise awareness of so-called “boiler rooms” overseas — call centres that are involved in phone scams.

They target victims through “spoofing” — which involves scammers using software show a fake local phone number on cell phones.

Roy admitted “it’s a really hard thing to admit to yourself that maybe you fell for something that you thought maybe you shouldn’t have, or maybe you should have known better.”

Victims sometimes continue with the scheme because they are in shock, embarrassed, or denial.

The boiler rooms are often located in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia, with staff who try to get victims money through their credit cards, e-transfers, or cryptocurrency exchanges.

“These are sophisticated, professional operations that are running scripts that have been tested to make sure they work. It’s not just some guy calling that you’re immediately going to know it’s a scam.”

Police see more victims

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre says Canadians had lost $144 million to fraud in the first eight months of this year alone.

Winnipeg police Sgt., Trevor Thompson, said his financial crimes unit gets reports daily of people who have fallen prey to cryptocurrency trading scams. Cryptocurrency can be very complicated for law enforcement to get that back.

The scammers will typically give their targets detailed instructions on how to transfer the cryptocurrency, he said.

“[The scammers] keep them on the line, physically direct them, tell them where the [crypto] ATM is located, and give them instructions on how to make a purchase.” Then, “the purchase goes directly to their cryptocurrency wallet. Once it’s in there, it’s theirs. Simple as that.”  

One victim just came forward to the commission after losing $30,000 in a get-rich-quick scheme that involved depositing money for crypto trading.

The victim sent cash to the man she was talking to — asking for the driver’s licence of the man she believed was going to help her make money.

“She was still on the fence as to whether or not this was real or not,” Roy said. 

“So we contacted the Georgia Department of Driver Services, spoke with senior employees there, [and] were able to confirm that the driver’s licence that she’d been provided was a complete forgery.”

The department did a facial recognition scan of the driver’s licence photo, to see if the person was in their system at all, Roy said.

“And no, definitely not. So he was likely overseas and just telling her a tale.”

The securities commission is encouraging Manitobans to report any potential scams to 1-855-FRAUDMB (372-8362). If the activity is determined to be fraudulent, the commission may issue an alert for investors.

This article was originally sourced by