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Canadian police have issued a targeted warning to citizens in Calgary, Alberta, to be wary of employment scams, romance scams, and other related to cryptocurrency after victims there lost over $22.5 million so far this year.
Alberta officials revealed on Monday that its residents have run afoul of 340 reported crypto scams since the start of the year. That’s up from 2022, when residents lost a smaller $14 million across 321 reported scams in 12 months.
The police believe even these figures are “vastly underreported,” however.
“While the vast majority of cryptocurrency is legitimate, it is also a deregulated marketplace and has, at times, been used by scammers as a form of payment connected to various frauds,” said Calgary Police on Tuesday.
The cosmopolitan city of Calgary was historically the heart of Canada's oil industry, and was ranked third most livable city this summer in the Economist Intelligence Unit's (EIU) annual ranking of the world's most liveable cities.
The Calgary Police did not respond to Decrypt’s request for comment.
The most common forms of scams noted are investment scams—those promising victims more money if they send the scammer some funds first. “Only scammers will demand full payment upfront,” the police noted.
An example would include the infamous Michael Saylor phishing videos, where thieves posing as the Bitcoin billionaire promise to double victims’ Bitcoin holdings if they send their BTC to the scammer’s wallet. In January 2022, a Bitcoin user sent $1.1 million in BTC to one such scam address.
The police also warned against people online promising large returns in the crypto markets, and of users on social media and online dating apps mentioning crypto investments, saying such messages are “likely a scam.”
According to Chainalysis, scams continue to comprise the bulk of the volume transferred in crypto-related crimes, including hacks, darknet markets, and ransomware attacks. That said, the firm’s 2023 crypto mid-year update suggested that global crypto crime is down since last year—a trend not observed with Calgary.
A June survey of 2,000 Canadians conducted by Toronto Metropolitan University found that one-third of digital asset owners in Canada have fallen victim to crypto scams.
Besides scams alone, the RCMP published a warning in July regarding several Canadians whose crypto was being stolen directly from their homes by people posing as “delivery persons or persons of authority.”