ONTARIO PROVINCIAL POLICE
Police Week 2022, which runs from Nov. 6 to 12, focuses on how we make our communities safer, stronger, together. Policing requires community partnerships to achieve these goals.
Today, officers from the Southern Georgian Bay OPP detachment focus on being stronger, together through education to help prevent community members from becoming victims of frauds and scams.
Officers are dispatched by the OPP Communication Centre to an ever-growing number of fraud- and scam-related calls for service in our community here in north Simcoe. In fact in 2022, officers have responded to over 293 fraud- and scam-related reports with 29 of those reports being cryptocurrency based resulting in financial losses for area residents of over $1.2 million.
Detachment uniform officers along with OPP Crime Unit members do work together with members of the OPP Anti-Rackets Branch and Serious Fraud Office Ontario, in concert with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) to help victims properly report, record and help officers solve these faceless crimes that inflict financial pain on their victims.
Our community partner that works with police on these types of crimes is the CAFC, which provides endless tips and educational newsletters and articles for community members so they may become aware and protected against numerous types of frauds and scams so they may be financially stronger.
The CAFC’s primary goals include the following:
- Prevention through education and awareness
- Disruption of criminal activities
- Intelligence dissemination
- Support to law enforcement
- Partnerships between the private and public sectors
Investment scams were the highest reported scams based on dollar loss in 2021. Victims of investment scams reported a total loss of $163.9 million to CAFC. In most of these cases, the investment opportunities offer higher-than-normal, or true monetary, returns, which often result in investors losing most, or all, of their money. The majority of the investment scam reports involve Canadians investing in cryptocurrency after seeing a deceptive advertisement. It typically involves victims downloading a trading platform and transferring cryptocurrency into their trading account. In most cases, victims are not able to withdraw their funds. It is very likely that many of the trading platforms are fraudulent or controlled by fraudsters. In addition to crypto trading scams, the CAFC also receives reports on suspected fraudulent initial coin offerings.
Variations of crypto investment scams
- The victim is approached on a dating or social media website. In some cases, the scam starts as a romance scam and quickly turns into an “investment opportunity.” Because suspects have gained the victim’s trust, it can lead to a high dollar loss for the victim.
- In some reports, suspects have compromised victims’ friends’ social media accounts. Because the victim believes they are communicating with a friend or a trusted person, they are easily convinced to take advantage of the “investment opportunity.”
- The suspect calls a victim directly and convinces them to invest into cryptocurrency. In many cases, the suspect asks for remote access to the victim’s computer. The suspect shows the victim a fraudulent crypto investing website and convinces the victim to invest based on the potential exponential growth of the investment. In many cases, the victim will invest over a long period of time and, in the end, will realize that the funds can not be withdrawn.
- An email is received by the victim offering a crypto investment opportunity.
- The victim comes across an advertisement on social media. After the victim clicks on the ad and provides their contact information, suspects contact the victim by telephone and convince them to invest.
- Investment opportunities with higher-than-normal returns
- Unsolicited telephone, email or social media investment offers
- Displays of urgency so you don’t miss out
- An individual met on a dating or social media website who quickly attempts to convince you to invest into cryptocurrency
- A friend tells you about a cryptocurrency investment opportunity via social media or email
- Telephone calls from crypto investment companies
- Fraudulent ads posted on the internet or social media
- Request to transfer your crypto investment to an alternate crypto address
How to protect yourself
- Be careful when sending cryptocurrency. Once the transaction is completed, it is unlikely to be reversed.
- As proceeds of crime and anti-money laundering regimes around the world create regulatory frameworks that treat businesses dealing in cryptocurrencies as money service businesses, Canadians need to do their research to ensure they are using reputable and compliant services.
- If you receive a suspicious message from a trusted friend, reach out to them through a different means of communication to confirm that it is them.
- Verify if the investment companies are registered with your provincial securities agency or the National Registration Search tool (www.aretheyregistered.ca).
- Prior to investing, ask for information on the investment. Research the team behind the offering and analyze the feasibility of the project.
- Be wary of individuals met on dating or social media who attempt to educate and convince you to invest into cryptocurrency.
- Beware of fraudsters asking you to open and fund new crypto accounts. They will direct you to send it to wallets they control. Don’t.
Need to know
A good read over the following relevant links — Scams by A-Z index (antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca), Cryptocurrency-Canada Revenue Agency, Competition Bureau Canada — is strongly suggested to make you aware of current trends.
Anyone who suspects they have been the victim of cybercrime or fraud should report it to their local police and to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre’s online reporting system or by phone at 1-888-495-8501. If not a victim, report it to the CAFC anyway.