Bitcoin is often touted as one of the most secure channels of digital monetary transactions. However, a new development in the Canadian region of York has exposed the loopholes in the digital currency. About 45 residents of the district have been duped for over $340,000 in an unprecedented Bitcoin scam. Posing as Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) officers, the fraudsters convinced people that they were under federal investigation for tax fraud and threatened them with immediate arrest, should they fail to comply. The people were then told to funnel their funds via a Bitcoin ATM. The digital cryptocurrency is currently trading at $9,200.
The outlook for catching the perpetrators isn’t very bright, according to Rob Vingerhoets, a York Police Detective. He states “There really isn’t anything at this point, it’s a one-way street. The only way to recover it would be for the person who received the Bitcoins to send them back… If they’re a criminal, they’re not likely to do that.” Such cases have reportedly increased over the past few months and the criminals are taking advantage of the fact that citizens are uninformed about the technology.
One of the victims, who were scammed of $12,000, calls the scam rather painful to recall. She believes, however, that her story “can prevent other people from being victims.” The woman, named Linda, told reporters in a press conference held by the York Police Department of her ordeal. Linda recalled: “They’re very convincing and they keep at it. They say there’s a warrant for your arrest, and York Regional Police will be giving you a call shortly.”
Initially, she doubted the authenticity of the call, but the fraudsters knew some of her personal information. They also showed up as “York Regional Police” on her caller ID, which influenced her to believe them. She withdrew the asked amount from her bank and deposited it in a Bitcoin ATM in a convenience store, near Richmond Hill. She had never heard of Bitcoin before, but the scammers made her believe that the technology was used by the Canada Revenue Agency to transfer the money quickly.
The incident lasted about four hours after which Linda realized what had happened to her. Linda said: “’Stupid,’ you say, ‘How could you fall for this?’ I did, and I feel embarrassed about it. I was completely destroyed.”
The regional Police Department of York on its part is trying to increase public awareness about the said frauds. They’re doing this by posting leaflets close to Bitcoin ATMs in order to warn the public of these probable scams and how people can side-step these frauds.
The Durham Regional Police Service in Ontario, meanwhile, has issued a word of warning for potential investment-related Bitcoin frauds. The notice reads:
“Residents have reported being contacted by fraudsters after applying for jobs or responding to ads online involving a promise to make money. The fraudsters send cheques to the victims and ask them to use the money to purchase bitcoins – a virtual currency used globally.”