Saanich police warn of cryptocurrency scams after victims lose $1.4M

A sign advertises a Bitcoin automated teller machine, ATM, at a shop in Halifax on Wednesday, February 4, 2020. Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency which isn’t controlled by a central bank or agency. Bitcoin is created, distributed, traded and stored with the use of a decentralized ledger system known as blockchain. These transactions are transparent and secure. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Police are warning residents to be wary of cryptocurrency scams, as recent cases have already led to a combined loss of more than $1 million in Saanich, B.C.

Saanich police say that cryptocurrency frauds are becoming increasingly common, and that since mid-July, roughly $1.4 million has been lost in just a handful of investigations.

The police department says that some of the recent investigations share a common theme. A fake investor will contact a victim through an online messaging app, such as WhatsApp or WeChat, and then coach the victim on how to make money "quickly" by investing into a cryptocurrency trading platform.

"When the fraudster shows them that the money has quickly grown, they ask for more money, and the trend continues," said Saanich police in a release Wednesday.

"It is important for people to understand that once they move money into cryptocurrency, it cannot be retrieved," said Saanich police. "These files can be difficult for police to investigate as they often involve multiple layers of fraud and tracking the origins of the fraudster usually points to overseas."

Police add that many recent scams have targeted Asian community members in Saanich.

"For current information that is also translated, we encourage visiting the Anti-Deception Coordination Centre website," said police. 

Saanich police have released a set of tips to help protect yourself from cryptocurrency-related fraud:

  • Be suspicious of anyone giving you financial advice who you don’t know personally, face to face.
  • Check the credentials of any financial investor you take advice from before investing your money.
  • Take your time and do your due diligence before giving anyone money.
  • Do your own research before investing any money, anywhere.
    - Check out legitimate websites for information/warnings, including the BC Securities Commission and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre
    - Web search the investment platform and read reviews to the platforms/website (fake ones can be very convincing)
    - Ask your local bank, investor, financial planner about it
    - Ask trusted friends and family

"The significance and sophistication of these types of scams are evolving and are larger than ever," said Saanich police on Wednesday. "Please protect your assets and sensitive personal information."

Anyone who has been a victim of fraud, or who has information on recent incidents, is encouraged to contact the Saanich Police Department at 250-475-4321.