Bitcoin scams stealing millions from Edmotonians

More than $5.6 million has been stolen in Edmonton through scams referencing cryptocurrency, police say. 

Between the fall of 2019 and December 2021, Edmonton Police Service’s Cybercrimes Unit received 112 fraud reports involving an investment in cryptocurrency. In most cases, the scam referenced the digital currency called bitcoin. 

Some victims lost their life savings, according to police. One victim lost more than $1 million. 

Usually, they were convinced to invest via a website or mobile application that appeared legitimate. 

“Scammers befriend complainants via social media, phone calls, online advertisements and online dating platforms and encourage them to make a small investment. The websites and applications are often controlled by the suspects who manipulate the investment numbers to make it look like investors (complainants) are making significant gains,” EPS said in a statement on Wednesday. 

“This subsequently tricks complainants into investing even more money. Shortly after they invest a larger sum, the website or mobile application disappears or becomes inactive, and their funds are gone.”

Police say there are few ways to retrieve the money, so education and prevention is the best way to deal with fraud. 

They advise being wary of anyone who approaches you to invest and whose identity you cannot verify, or websites that have limited functionality or poor spelling and grammar. Police also suggest verifying the legitimacy of an organization and its financial standing or disclosures. Companies should be registered with FINTRAC or the Canadian Securities Administrator. If the company or a person is not registered, citizens are asked to contact their local securities regulator.