If you or someone you know is being blackmailed or being told to send money in the form of cryptocurrency or gift cards, the RCMP wants you to know it is a scam.

A number of scams have been circulating throughout the community, some of them more obvious than others. Sergeant Ryan Hoetmer says that while RCMP does receive complaints and reports from those who have fallen victim, there is often little they can do about it.

Hoetmer says that they have seen that the general public is becoming aware of some common scans, such as the call from the “CRA” requesting funds or calls about packages at the borders, and there are some people who do fall for it.

One scam that has been a growing concern is one that is directed toward the older population. The scammer will contact someone and tell them they are the RCMP and that they have their grandchild in jail. They are then asked to pay for their bail. Often there is someone who poses as the grandchild in the background. These scammers will ask for cryptocurrency or gift cards as payment for the bail.

“The RCMP will never ask for payment in cryptocurrency or gift cards,” says Hoetmer. In fact, the RCMP will not contact a family member at all to let them know a loved one is in jail. The only request for bail will come from the individual in custody.

Also, the RCMP would have individuals go into a detachment or a courthouse to pay the bail.

He says there have been three individuals who have come forward to the detachment. These individuals either hadn’t sent the money out yet, or the RCMP was able to contact the shipping company that had the package of gift cards and stop the shipment. Only one individual had made a payment, their second one was retrieved from the shipping company.

In the circumstances mentioned, Hoetmer says the victims are being asked to send money to a post office box in Quebec. He says this means they now have information they can use in an investigation.

Hoetmer says there are also scams involving investments into what people believe is a real business. Again, these people will ask for cryptocurrency investments.

He says if someone sends money by cryptocurrency, it is nearly impossible for the RCMP to trace it. 

“Anytime that money goes into cryptocurrency, that trail ends,” he says. “There’s not a lot we can do with it, to be honest.” 

The money gets put into a crypto app and then immediately moved overseas. 

He says anyone who wants to invest in a company needs to do their research and confirm that the company is legitimate.

Hoetmer says they also get reports of people being blackmailed after sending out nude pictures of themselves. He says in those situations, their best advice is to not make the payment. Once a blackmailer asks for money, they will not stop asking for it. The price will always get higher. 

Instead, Hoetmer suggests calling their bluff. Most of the time, the blackmailers do not follow through with sending out the photos to their contacts. 

Phishing scams are another scam people need to watch out for. These are scams that are sent over email. Individuals receive emails from someone claiming to be from PayPal or Meta. These emails often say the person’s account has been hacked or that there is something wrong with a post or payment.

Hoetmer says the emails can look very convincing, and clicking on the links in the email could lead to viruses on your computer, being hacked, or in some extreme cases, having your identity stolen.

He says if anyone receives an email from a source, their best bet is to ignore the link in the email and go directly to the website to log in. Also, a close look at the email address will show that it is a fake email.

An email from Meta would read “@support. facebook.com.” A phishing email will have a series of random numbers and letters.

Hoetmer says the best thing people can do if they are the victim of fraud is to contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or visit www.antifraudcentre.ca.

By Amanda Jeffery, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Sep 07, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   Free Press   Drayton Valley, Alberta

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