VANCOUVER — Police say cryptocurrency scams cost victims in the Vancouver-area about $2 million in just one week and investigators believe the frauds are becoming more common.
Vancouver police Const. Tania Visintin says she knows of at least four active cases where large amounts of money have been lost.
She says a single victim was defrauded of more than $500,000 in a separate case last year when suspects pretending to be Service Canada representatives convinced them their Social Insurance Number had been compromised.
Visintin says police believe the number of scams is growing and the total is under-reported, perhaps because victims feel shame or are afraid to ask for help.
Police say victims are typically lured in with promises that they will be a part of an opportunity to make money or convinced they will be doing a friend or a romantic interest a favour by purchasing cryptocurrency for them.
Because cryptocurrency frauds increasingly involve investment or romance scams, Visintin says family members should share details with their relatives to ensure everyone is informed.
“Another unfortunate trend we are noticing is that victims tend to be of East Asian descent,” Visintin told a news conference Friday.
There’s no hard evidence about why members of the community are being targeted, Visintin said. Not all victims are from that community, but she said language barriers or fear of authorities may play a part.
Cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual currency, like Bitcoin, that is essentially an online version of cash.
Frauds using cryptocurrency are challenging to investigate, said Visintin, because suspects are often based outside Canada and mask their identity through sophisticated, protected online connections, making it difficult to locate and identify them.