By Scott McLean, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Published Oct 25, 2021
Mounties are investigating multiple reports of a phone scam targeting local businesses using the cryptocurrency Bitcoin.
Police said that over the past two weeks three separate businesses in Fort McMurray, St. Paul and Vermilion have been targeted by fraudsters.
In each of the cases employees were contacted by an Ontario phone number. The caller pretended to be a high-ranking employee of the parent company of the business.
The caller then asked for an employee to make a payment through a local Bitcoin ATM for outstanding business licensing fees or other related business expenses on behalf of company headquarters.
The payments have varied from $500 to $3,000. In one case an employee also lost money through a personal account.
“We are just trying to get the information out there so other businesses don’t fall for it,” said police spokesperson Cpl. Lacey Blair. “The calls are generally coming from an Ontario number, but those of course can be re-routed through online or other methods.”
The challenge with Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies is that they are not regulated by a central body, police say. Once victims make the transaction it is then nearly impossible for them to get their money back when it has been transferred to the machine and into a virtual wallet.
Blair said that due to the COVID-19 pandemic there has been a rise in these types of phone scams as more people are at home to take the calls.
“The best thing to do is if they get a call from somebody pretending to be from headquarters or something like that is to not give them any personal information over the phone,” said Blair. “Use the number you have for your bank or business and call them directly.”
More information about fraud can be found through the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at www.antifraudcentre.ca or by calling 1-888-495-8501.
Anyone with information about this investigation or criminal activity in Wood Buffalo is asked to contact Wood Buffalo RCMP at 780-788-4040 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS). Tips to Crime Stoppers are always anonymous and can be also be made online at P3tips.com or with the P3 Tips app available through the Apple App and Google Play stores.
This item is reprinted with permission from Fort McMurray Today.
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