It’s a potent reminder of just how persuasive, persistent and sophisticated scammers have become.
Burnaby RCMP issued a warning Thursday, after a local senior was defrauded out of more than $7.5 million in what police say is among the largest scams the detachment has ever investigated.
According to police, the scammers used a double-barrelled approach, targeting the victim with an initial cryptocurrency fraud — then returning to prey on the senior again by posing as someone who could help her get her money back.
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“Fraudsters are often changing tactics. In this case it appears they were able to tailor the scam to target this victim in particular using information about her career and business history to first build trust and friendship,” said Cpl. Philip Ho with Burnaby RCMP’s Economic Crime Unit in a media release.
“These scammers went to great lengths over many months to defraud this senior and convince her these were legitimate investments. These types of frauds often go unreported, but it’s important that victims come forward to police so we can investigate and help support victims, who are at a higher risk of being re-victimized once they have been defrauded by a scam.”
The scam began in spring 2022, when the fraudsters reached out to the victim claiming to be seeking information about her personal business history.
Over the next several months, the scammers built trust with the victim, chatting in Mandarin frequently by phone, text and email.
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Eventually, the scammers were able to convince the victim to invest millions of dollars through multiple deposits into a cryptocurrency wallet via an online trading app.
Police said the victim was able to check what she thought was the balance of her account, through apps the scammers had sent to her.
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The apps, police said, were actually fake and designed to mirror the appearance of legitimate cryptocurrency trading platforms.
Eventually, the victim tried to take money out of the accounts, but was unable to withdraw it.
That’s when the scammers cut off communication.
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She was later contacted by a person using a different name, who claimed they could help her recover her money.
The scammers pressured and threatened her to invest more money as a part of the recovery process — in what ultimately turned out to be yet another fraud.
Police said the investigation into the fraud remains open, but are using the incident to illustrate the growing frequency and complexity fraud operations.
Mounties are warning the public to be wary of these common signs of cryptocurrency scams:
- An unusually high return of investments in a short amount of a time
- Suspects messaging victims at all times of the day taking interest in their personal life
- Suspects providing victims with excuses to use when going to the bank to withdraw money
- No formal investment contract or information relating to the product you will be purchasing
You can find out more about how to protect yourself from online fraud at the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre
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