Your hair, your lips, your… cryptocurrency.
Winnipeg police are warning the newly besotted to keep an eye on their finances, following reports of people being scammed out of money by smooth but slimy romantic operators.
In most cases, according to a Winnipeg Police Service news release Wednesday, they gain victims’ trust through emotional manipulation using social media and dating apps. They encourage targets to enjoy the same wealth as they allegedly have by getting involved in cryptocurrency trading, promising to share their “secrets of success.”
Victims are instructed to set up two cryptocurrency accounts, one of which is illegitimate, and transfer funds into that one. Its website falsely leads the target to believe they have gained significant profits.
However, they are unable to withdraw any of their money, but are encouraged to invest more and pay additional fees.
Scammers have reportedly used romantic and emotional manipulation to lure victims into following through with the scams.
WPS Sgt. Trevor Thompson told the Free Press this “hybrid” romance and cryptocurrency scam has been on the rise recently. The elderly and recently-widowed individuals are targeted, he said, as perpetrators often rely on emotional manipulation.
Though scammers employ a variety of tactics to lure their victims, Thompson said the end goal is generally the same: to extract large sums of money from the victim.
Jason Roy, a senior investigator at the Manitoba Securities Commission, believes cryptocurrency is appealing to scammers because the transactions are quick, international, and more difficult to track than other currencies.
“One of the things that we’re seeing is offshore crypto trading scams. These are individuals that are operating out of boiler rooms overseas,” Roy said. “They’re contacting Manitobans and offering them a chance to make a bunch of money investing in these crypto trading platforms.”
Thompson said scammers prey on the fact a lot of people are not knowledgeable about cryptocurrency. Further, he said, there is a fallacy cryptocurrency is an easy way to get rich.
“There’s that fear of missing out, right? So when people are presented with what they believe is an opportunity that lines up with what they’re hearing or what they’re seeing in everyday life, they tend to jump on it,” Thompson said.
The addition of romance to the picture adds a layer of emotional manipulation to the scam.
“They’re kind of hit in two different ways: the emotional side of realizing they’ve been victimized by someone that they thought they felt a romantic connection with, and also the psychological/emotional part of the fact that they’ve been scammed,” Roy said.
“It does quite a number on victims.”
Both Thompson and Roy encourage people to do their research before making any investment decisions. When in doubt, contact the WPS financial crimes unit, Thompson added.
Victims of such scams are encouraged to report them at the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website.