Police issue warning after two students lose $150K in international wire-transfer scam

Waterloo regional police are warning the East Asian community after reports of international wire-transfer extortion scams that saw two victims lose a combined $150,000.

Police say both victims were students at area universities, with both scams similar in nature.

According to a release, the scams contained many of the same key indicators, including:

  • A phone call claiming to come from a member of the Chinese Government or Chinese Embassy, alleging the victim had been implicated in the commission of a criminal offence in China
  • An insistence the victim report their location and activities to Chinese authorities multiple times a day
  • Communication with alleged Chinese authorities, such as police and judges, over phone or Skype
  • Providing authentic-looking police identification
  • Identifying a male named Liu Yan as the chief suspect in China
  • Allegations there were warrants for the victim's arrest
  • A request to access the victim's bank account to "prove" illegal money was not laundered through their accounts
  • Requests to transfer large sums of money to a bank account in Hong Kong specializing in "money tracing"

Police also said both scams involved tactics including fear, intimidation, threats of incarceration, as well as a sense of urgency and a request for secrecy.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU'RE A VICTIM OF FRAUD

Anyone who has been a victim of a similar scam and suffered a financial loss is asked to report the incident using Waterloo regional police's online reporting page or by calling the non-emergency line.

Those who received a similar call or message but did not experience a financial loss are asked to contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.

Police are reminding residents to never wire, send or e-transfer money based on a request made over the phone or to provide personal information.

Residents should also document any steps taken and keep all records, and notify financial institutions and other account providers of any lost or stolen cards, cheques or passwords.

Police say people can contact national credit agencies Equifax and TransUnion to request a fraud alert be added to their profile.

If the fraud happened online, victims are encouraged to contact the application website holder about the incident.

People can also change their phone number, email address, social media or other accounts if the suspect contacted them using those communication methods.

Lost or stolen identity documents should be reported and replaced.

FRAUD PREVENTION TIPS

The Anti-Fraud Centre has tips for preventing possible frauds, including saying no to telemarketers trying to sell you something or asking for money right away.

The centre also recommends researching charities and collection agencies, and looking for contact information for companies that call people directly. People can call the number on the back of their credit card to verify calls.

People shouldn't give out personal information like their name, address, birthdate, social insurance number or credit card information during unsolicited calls.

Residents are also advised not to click on pop-up ads on their computer and install anti-virus software.

As for online accounts, the Anti-Fraud Centre recommends strong passwords with a combination of letters, numbers and symbols, and having a unique password for each account. The centre also encourages using multi-factor authentication where possible and only logging into accounts from trusted sources.