Watch out for online investment, romance scams

As the list of scams trying to separate you from your money continues to grow, York Regional Police (YRP) is reminding you to trust your instincts and to be wary of online investment and romance scams, particularly those involving cryptocurrencies because they’re designed to be anonymous and can rarely be traced.

“If a situation feels suspicious, trust your instincts never invest in something you do not fully understand or with people or businesses that you cannot confirm are legitimate,” advises Const. Peter Carman. 

The stark warning follows an increase in the number of incidents being reported to YRP, with fraudsters targeting victims through messages on social media, emails, dating sites and online advertisements.

How it works is victims are often introduced to an investment opportunity or asked to receive money on behalf of the fraudster, who may claim to know cryptocurrency traders or investors or to be one themselves. They promise large returns and may even set up websites where victims can log in and see funds in their accounts.

The fraudsters often use fake names and identities or impersonate existing legal companies to solicit victims and to appear legitimate.

“The fraudster will continually ask for more money and fees and eventually, victims can’t get any of their invested money back,” Carman says.

In romance scams, fraudsters build trust with a victim, then ask them to receive money and forward that money to others. In most cases, this money has been obtained from other online fraud victims and is essentially being laundered. Be very cautious if someone asks you to send cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Litecoin and Etherum, as those online investments and investors aren’t licensed or regulated in Ontario. Don’t receive money transfers or deposits from anyone you don’t know.

If you’ve been a victim of fraud and have lost money, report the incident promptly to the YRP Financial Crimes Unit at https://www.yrp.ca/en/online-reporting/Report-a-Crime.asp or 1-866-876-5423, ext. 6627. Report frauds in which no money has been lost with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/index-eng.htm or 1-888-495-8501.

YRP encourages you to share fraud prevention tips with friends and family, especially seniors or newcomers to Canada, who are frequently the targeted victims of frauds and scams. Competition Bureau Canada offers numerous tips in the second edition of its Little Black Book of Scams.

Be skeptical of emails, messages or websites with misspelled common words, grammar errors that make it difficult to read or expressions that are used incorrectly, it warns. Be wary of the following: anyone asking you to provide more personal or financial information than is required for the transaction or discussion; unsolicited calls, such as someone claiming you have a virus on your computer or there has been fraudulent activity in your bank accounts; and unsolicited friend requests on social media.

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