Lethbridge police warn cryptocurrency cons are on the rise

Lethbridge police say though they rarely dealt with calls about cryptocurrency-related fraud in the past, they’re now seeing a boom in cases.

This year, police say 18 victims have been defrauded out of more than $800,000 in cases ranging from investment and social media scams to phony texts or calls from people claiming to bewith the Canada Revenue Agency.

“Cryptocurrency is a digital asset used as a medium of exchange. Unlike the Canadian or the U.S. dollar, there is no central authority that manages and maintains the value of a cryptocurrency,” police said in a Wednesday news release.

“Strong encryption is used to secure transaction records and technology, called blockchain – a decentralized ledger of all transactions – makes the transfer of cryptocurrency difficult to trace, providing fraudsters with protection and anonymity from their victims.”

Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency but there are now thousandsin circulation.

Cryptocurrency can be used to purchase products and services, or for investment purposes.

As with the stock market, values fluctuate with demand.

“With frauds involving cryptocurrencies expected to continue to increase worldwide, police are advising the public to be wary of common scams, and always exercise due diligence before any money – actual cash or cryptocurrency – changes hands,” police said.  

“Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it is.”

The Lethbridge Police Service issued the following advice on how to protect yourself against cryptocurrency-related frauds:

  • Be careful when sending cryptocurrency. Once the transaction is completed, it is unlikely to be reversed.

  • Be wary of online and social media advertisements promising returns on crypto assets and be suspicious if you are contacted out of the blue and offered an investment opportunity. Receiving a random/unsolicited, text, call or social media message about a lucrative investment opportunity should not be the starting point in which you invest or provide funds.

  • Conduct your own research and ensure you know who you are dealing with! Retain your cryptocurrency with well-known and reputable exchanges.

  • Using a decentralized platform or a company outside of Canada may carry certain risks – such as the ability for authorities to conduct any follow up. Be sure you understand what risks you may be taking so an informed decision can be made. Do not blindly invest because of a fear of missing out.

  • Use strong and unique passwords for different online accounts. In the case of a data breach, fraudsters may try using credential stuffing tactics to access your cryptocurrency wallet.

  • Consider using multi-factor authentication to secure your accounts and authorize transactions.

  • Recognize the warning signs of common scams. For example, police or government authorities will not request your banking details and you cannot have an arrest warrant vacated by sending money, gift cards or cryptocurrency.

  • When in doubt hang up, don’t click any links and don’t respond to any messages.  Contact the business, government agency, or person directly – from a known source or by looking up the number/contact information online, from the legitimate website.