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Police raise alarm after cryptocurrency scams cost Comox Valley residents over $1 million

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A sign advertises a Bitcoin ATM at a shop in Halifax. Victims wanting to invest in cryptocurrency clicked on Facebook advertisements for cryptocurrency brokers, then transferred money to the brokers and were shown online reports showing their investments were doing well. The brokers then encouraged the victims to invest more money, before cutting off communication. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Just weeks after Saanich police reported that cryptocurrency frauds had cost local victims $1.4 million, Comox Valley RCMP say they’re investigating similar frauds with reported losses of more than $1 million.

Cryptocurrency is a term for digital currencies such as bitcoin.

In two Comox Valley cases, victims were phoned and presented with an opportunity to invest money in return for dividends. The victims gave the scammers access to their personal computers to create trading accounts on a particular platform, but the con artists also used the access to collect personal information.

The victims got dividends for a period of time, but their accounts were also drained.

Other victims wanting to invest in cryptocurrency clicked on Facebook advertisements for cryptocurrency brokers, then transferred money to the brokers and were shown online reports suggestng their investments were doing well. The brokers then encouraged the victims to invest more money, before cutting off communication.

The victims could not access their money after that.

“Once you’ve taken your money from the bank and transferred it elsewhere, you are responsible for where it goes and who is able to access it,” said Const. Monika Terragni, who urged people to take the time to know where their money is going. “Don’t get lured in by fancy websites, online advertisements or unexpected phone calls.”

Saanich police said such cases can be hard to investigate, since they tend to include several layers of fraud and frequently involve scammers based overseas. In addition, the scammers’ methods continue to evolve.

Comox Valley RCMP offered these tips for protecting yourself from this type of fraud:

• Be wary of online and social-media advertisements and be suspicious if you are contacted out of the blue about an investment.

• Do your research and note that scammers will often try to rush you into a decision. Ensure that you are using legitimate ­services.

• Never give anyone remote access to your computer to ­create accounts.

• Remember that if something sounds too good to be true, it likely is.

jbell@timescolonist.com

• More information is available on the RCMP cybersafety web page at rcmp-grc.gc.ca/en/cyber-safety.