Is that promise of lasting love or easy money a little too good to be true?
If you’re feeling suspicious, trust your gut, police in Vancouver say amid a spike in online scams.
In a news release Friday, the Vancouver Police Department said cryptocurrency schemes are on the rise in the area.
And scammers are convincing enough that some have fallen for their ruses. In just one week, local victims lost nearly $2 million, the VPD said.
It’s possible that total is even higher, as police say the crime is often underreported. Victims may feel shame or embarrassment, making them less likely to go to police, Const. Tania Visintin said.
Many of these scams involve cryptocurrency, meaning the chances of finding a suspect are low. Scammers ask for payment in digital currency like Bitcoin, and are able to mask their identity and location through virtual private networks (VPNs).
“Predators will often exploit two powerful human emotions – greed and love. Victims are typically lured in with the idea that they will be part of an opportunity to make money or, in other cases, they will be doing a friend or romantic interest a favour,” she said.
These are the two scenarios that are becoming more common, according to the VPD’s Financial Crime Unit.
Scammers exploiting a victim’s greed will approach the person, often through social media. They’ll groom their target over a period of time, forming what appears to the victim to be a friendship, then propose an investment through a fake company.
The victim then makes an investment, and often will see returns, though those too are false. Then, when they try to cash out, they find their money and their “friend” are gone.
In the case of romance scams, victims are also often approached over social media, or sometimes on dating apps.
A similar grooming process begins, and eventually, the scammer convinces the victim to invest, or transfer them money for another reason. The victim then loses all their money, and the love interest disappears.
One red flag to watch for with romance scams is if the person comes up with excuses as to why they can’t meet in person.
In light of the frequency of such scams, the VPD is advising members of the public who feel suspicious about money transfers to call local police and report it.