Wilf Rice viewed it as a toe-in-the-water investment that he thought was harmless.
“One day I got a robo-call. Some guy was trying to sell…get me interested in opening an account for crypto currency and that led to, eventually, I think I gave him two or three hundred dollars,” he told CTV News London.
The money was sent as an e-transfer which Rice felt was safe, but then the calls, emails and messages poured in.
“I got nothing but call after call after call from this guy over in Belgium, somebody from Germany, somebody in the U.K.,” he explained.
Rice then recognized money was being transferred out of two accounts — one business and one personal.
Each transfer was in the vicinity of a thousand dollars and all were going to apparent cryptocurrency investments, but none that he actually invested in.
The transfers were to entities with names like Coinberry, Bitfly and Gigadat, and contact information for those entities lead nowhere.
All the money, Rice admitted, is likely gone forever, and said, “So far I’ve found over $60,000 that’s been transferred, illegally, from my accounts.”
The Canadian Anti-fraud Centre said crypto-scams were the highest reported frauds based on dollar loss in 2021. Victims reported a total loss of almost $164 million in that year.
“You don’t think that you’re giving up private information but you really are,” said London-based tech expert Carmi Levy.
He said the scammers are masters of social engineering.
“You’re talking about where you come from, the street you grew up, your mother’s maiden name, your pet’s name. Maybe they’ll ask you the financial institutions you deal with. What they’re doing is searching for, they’re fishing for relevant that can be used to authenticate as you,” Levy said.
They may also send emails or texts that link to viruses that expose your private information.
Levy said once one bad actor gets someone’s information, they often end up sharing it with many others on the dark web.
Const. Sandasha Bough with the London Police Service said the first line of defence is knowing who you are dealing with.
“Never provide financial information — whether over the phone, over the internet, or in person — to anybody that you do not know in real life and who doesn’t work for a reputable financial institution,” she said.
Bough said that as soon as someone recognizes that they’ve been the victim of a fraud they should reach out to their financial institutions and to police as quickly as possible.
London police have information online that provides tips on how to avoid financial fraud along with a telephone number that can be used to report to report fraud.