Warning on crypto and romance frauds

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May 28, 2024, (Ottawa, Ontario) - The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) and the Canadian Investment Regulatory Organization (CIRO) are raising awareness among Canadians about the increasing threat of sophisticated scams, particularly those involving extended online communication. These scams often culminate in convincing individuals to invest in various schemes, frequently involving cryptocurrencies.

These elaborate scams use social manipulation and financial grooming tactics to exploit the public's interest in, and incomplete understanding of, crypto assets. Victims are lured into transferring increasing amounts of money.

Typical investment frauds offer "get rich quick" opportunities and promise higher than normal returns. Unfortunately, these frauds often result in investors losing most, or all, of their money. 

The CAFC is also noticing an increase in romance/investment scams, a method colloquially known as "pig butchering". Victims are contacted on dating apps/websites or social media by fraudsters attempting to develop a relationship to gain trust. The fraudster then claims to have been successful in cryptocurrency investments and offers to help the victim "get rich". Fraudsters use fake online trading platforms and convince victims to transfer funds or cryptocurrency into their trading account, often resulting in the victim being unable to withdraw their funds.

Fraudsters may try to befriend the victim, develop an online romance, or pose as legitimate investment advisers. Over time, the scammer will suggest investing in an opportunity, often involving crypto assets, and once a substantial amount of money or crypto is sent, the scammer abruptly ceases contact.

In some cases, when victims request their money back, the fraudster agrees but demands additional funds for supposed taxes and fees before disappearing. Victims may also be approached by new entities offering to help recover their funds for a fee, which is yet another layer of fraud.

Watch out for these red flags:

  • Unsolicited messages from strangers on social media, dating apps/websites and text messages leading to prolonged exchanges, often moving to private messaging apps.
  • Mention of easy money made in the crypto market, often based on exclusive information or through "professional traders."
  • Encouragement to visit crypto-related websites, which may appear legitimate and use terms like "investment packages" and "guaranteed rates of return."
  • Provision of financial records showing returns or allowing a small withdrawal to create a false sense of legitimacy.

How Canadians can protect themselves:

  • Be wary of unsolicited messages on social media or "wrong number" texts, especially if the sender tries to develop a bond.
  • Avoid investing based solely on the advice of someone met online. Consult with registered financial professionals if needed.
  • Exercise caution if an online connection suggests investing in crypto or transferring funds to specific platforms.
  • Be skeptical of promises of large, quick, and low-risk returns.
  • Report suspected investment fraud to the CIRO, CAFC, and local police.
  • Stay informed and exercise caution to avoid falling victim to investment frauds and romance scams. Visit the CAFC and CIRO websites regularly get more tips and information.

If you believe you have been a victim of this or a similar scam, immediately contact your bank, local police, your provincial or territorial securities commission, and the CAFC.

Quick facts

  • Investment fraud losses totaled $309.4 million in 2023 which represented the highest reported losses to the CAFC in 2023.
  • Overall social media losses reported to the CAFC in 2023 totaled $172 million.
  • Perpetrators of romance/investment scams are often part of criminal gangs operating outside Canada and have caused significant individual losses sometimes exceeding one million dollars.
  • The CAFC is Canada's central repository for data, intelligence and resource material as it relates to fraud.
  • The CAFC provides timely, accurate and useful information to assist citizens, businesses, law enforcement and government agencies.
  • CIRO is the national self-regulatory organization that oversees all investment dealers, mutual fund dealers and trading activity on Canada’s debt and equity marketplaces.
  • CIRO is committed to the protection of investors, providing efficient and consistent regulation, and building Canadians’ trust in financial regulation and the people managing their investments.
  • CIRO’s Office of the Investor publishes information to help investors keep their investments safe available at Avoiding Fraud and Protecting Your Investments.

Associated links

Contacts

Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre 
705-499-4572 
[email protected]

Joanna Nicholson 
Manager, Corporate Communications and Public Affairs 
Canadian Investment Regulatory Organization 
416-943-4640 
[email protected]

Type: Media Release >
General

Contact

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