Ottawa police are warning residents to be careful as “crypto-currency investment” scams are on the rise.
According to police fraud squad detectives, scammers advertise investment broker services on a variety of social media platforms.
Victims reaching out for more information are contacted via regular phone calls, text messages and emails from the scammers.
“This leads people to trust the investment broker and, as directed, victims open an account at an online crypto-currency exchange service and make a purchase,” police said in the release.
The purchase of the crypto-currency is legitimate, but “when you turn your funds over to a third party who is a fraudster, they move your money, all the while leading you to believe they’re earning you a large profit.
“But that’s not the case,” said Sgt. Chantal Arsenault of the police organized fraud section.
Victims are provided access to a fraudulent online investment account where they can log in with a username and password to monitor their portfolio.
“In most cases, victims don’t realize that the investment is fraudulent until they try to withdraw some of their money. Sometimes this is several weeks or months after the investment is made,” Arsenault said.
Scammers use delaying tactics postpone fund withdrawals, telling the victim there is a large penalty fee in the thousands of dollars to access their investment.
“After they pay the penalty, they find all their money is gone,” Arsenault said.
The funds are laundered through crypto-currency exchanges with no governing body, “so it’s next to impossible to get the money back.”
Fraud detectives provide a few warning signs:
- Brokers use WhatsApp texting app to contact you;
- The scammer contacts you by using a variety of emails addresses and phone numbers;
- Text messages and reports contain grammar or spelling mistakes;
- An atypical formal salutation is used: for example, Mr. John instead of Mr. SMITH;
- The promise of large returns on your investment. If it sounds too be good to be true, it probably is.
Mostly, police suggest not to answer an ad on social media.
“Would you hand your money over to someone on the street if they told you they can get you a big return on your investment?”