Ottawa woman says she lost $100,000 in an online investment cyber crime

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Deborah Klein thought she bought a safe and guaranteed investment through an online site, but as it turns out, it was an elaborate scam.

“To save that $100,000 it took working eight years, three days a week,” Klein tells CTV News Ottawa, as she looks through stacks of paperwork representing a more than two-year record of her loss. “To put to my retirement and now it’s gone.”

In April 2021, Klein was looking to invest a portion of her retirement to help with the cost of living. After conducting a search online, she thought she found what she was looking for.

“This GIC came up for Canada Life,” Klein says. “Everybody knows Canada Life, it has been around for ages. I was in finance and I remember doing payrolls with benefits and everything.”

Klein downloaded a detailed brochure to research and decided on a guaranteed investment certificate that offered a return of 3.13 per cent on a four-year term.

“I didn’t know it was a fake brochure and they asked you to leave an email and your name and they will get in touch,” says Klein, which they did. “They said you have to talk to an advisor, so I talked to an advisor and they said you have to prove who you are, prove that the money is not used for laundering, then the application contract and then they get you to do the wire.”

To Klein, this all seemed legitimate. She says she researched the company and saw it had recently purchased an Ireland-based firm. That made sense to her because the representatives she spoke with had an Irish accent.

Three weeks after she made the large-sum money transfer, it was pointed out to her that it may have been a fraud. 

And it was.

The website Klein had been navigating that whole time was a spoof, a cloned knockoff, designed to look identical and legitimate.

It’s a problem afflicting many financial institutions. 

“A spoof website … has the same logo as your bank or an insurance company or financial services organization that sells products, the graphics look spot on, the copy is professionally written, no errors,” technology analyst Carmi Levy said.

“And unfortunately they are very, very good to the point that even if you do do your due diligence it can be very difficult to tell the differences between these not legitimate resources and a legitimate bank or institution.”

In a statement, a spokesperson with Canada Life said that the company is aware of this incident and are deeply troubled by the distress it has caused.

“Our financial industry partners work closely with regulators and the authorities on these issues when they arise to protect consumers from becoming victims.”

Which is getting more difficult each day. Cyber crimes are surging and in 2022, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre reported more than $500 million in losses, the majority are considered to be financial investment fraud.

“It’s devastating to see how much loss is occurring and how much funds are leaving Canada and being laundered overseas,” OPP Det.-Const. John Armit said.

“We’re seeing with these investment scams where the fraudsters are using professional money mules and money launderers to move the funds out of Canada overseas,  which makes it difficult for law enforcement to investigate and get the funds back.”

Armit says if you are a victim of cyber fraud, it’s important to call local police immediately. In some circumstances, overseas wire transfers can actually be reversed.

“Canada is trying to do its part to investigate these frauds but it’s limited on what reach we have around the world,” said Det.-Const. Armit, adding that prevention begins with cyber awareness.

“Go to the Ontario Securities Commission or your local securities commission and look up are they registered and that will give you an indication of it they are legit or not.”

Levy says there are some key indicators to prevent being victimized by cyber scams.

“The biggest mistake that people are making is that they are searching for things online then clicking those links … never Google search for financial products,” Levy says.

“What you should be doing is going right to the main homepage of the bank or the insurance company or the financial services institution that you know and trust and take a closer look at the address of the website itself and then put it up to the actual website of the organization that you think you are dealing with.

“Read it very carefully, look for any differences in letters, maybe an additional letter or so, or it isn’t the same domain or they added something to the domain and then when you are messaging back and forth with these individuals look for the email addresses that they are using. Are these the email addresses from the domain of the institution? Criminals are raising their game; they are investing more and using increasingly sophisticated tools.”

Klein says her investment is likely gone, but wants to share her story as a cautious tale to prevent others from making the same mistake.

“In the old way, you would go there and bring the money in person. So I’m saying, be careful out there, it’s really bad,” Klein says. “Really make sure before you make any investments because you don’t want to go through what I did, it’s devastating.”

This article was originally sourced from