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Saanich police warn cryptocurrency frauds on rise, costing victims $1.4 million

Saanich police financial-crimes officers are warning about an increase in cryptocurrency frauds that has resulted in a loss of $1.4 million for a handful of victims.
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The Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward

Saanich police financial-crimes officers are warning about an increase in cryptocurrency frauds that has resulted in a loss of $1.4 million for a handful of victims.

In some of the cases being investigated, a victim is contacted through WhatsApp or WeChat. The victim is given instructions on how to make quick money by investing, and is convinced to move money through a cryptocurrency platform.

“They use money to purchase cryptocurrency,” said Const. Markus Anastasiades. The scammer indicates that their money has grown, “and then from there the ball rolls,” he said. “They keep putting money in until at one point they freeze the accounts.”

Then the victim is told there are fees to unfreeze the accounts, and the person they have been dealing with disappears.

Once the money has been moved into cryptocurrency, it’s gone, Anastasiades said.

“In the scamming world, it’s disappeared,” he said. “You really need to be extra vigilant about how you invest your money if you’re going to be choosing to go through the crypto­currency path.”

Police said such cases can be difficult to investigate because they often involve multiple layers of fraud and the people involved are often based overseas.

Many such scams have been targeting the Asian community, police said.

Anastasiades said methods of defrauding continue to develop.

“The significance and sophistication of these types of scams are evolving and are larger than ever,” he said. “Please protect your assets and sensitive personal information.”

Victims are encouraged to contact Saanich police. Other resources include the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, the B.C. Securities Commission, Equifax Canada and Transunion.

To avoid losing money, police advised talking to a bank, financial planner or friends and family, and checking the credentials of the person you’re dealing with before investing money.

jbell@timescolonist.com