Edmonton police say local investors have lost more than $5.6 million to cryptocurrency scams between fall of 2019 and the end of last year.
EPS says it investigated 112 cryptocurrency fraud reports over that time. Complaints lost $50,000 on average or less to the scam, but the highest loss exceeded $1 million, police say.
“Sadly, we encountered several complainants who lost their life savings to this scam,” says Det. Dana Gehring with the EPS Cyber Crime Investigations Unit.
“Unfortunately, once funds are invested or sent to another party using cryptocurrency, there is little we can do to retrieve them. While we always aim to apprehend those responsible, our best tool with this type of fraud is to educate on prevention.”
More than 90 per cent of the incidents referenced bitcoin, according to EPS.
More recent numbers for 2022 are not yet available.
Police say in most incidents, investors were convinced to invest in cryptocurrency via what often appeared to be legitimate websites or apps but that are actually controlled by scammers.
Scammers befriend complainants via social media, phone calls, online advertisements and online dating platforms before encouraging them to make a small investment, police say.
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Police warn that at that point, scammers would often manipulate the data on their website or app to give the appearance of growth and encouraging victims to give them more money.
Eventually, the websites or apps disappear, leaving those victims without any means of recovering their money.
EPS says it recommends anyone considering investing in cryptocurrency to confirm the website or app is legitimate, be wary of anyone unknown approaching with investment opportunities, and to verify the investor or investment company registered with FINTRAC or the Canadian Securities Administrator.