Bitcoin Scams in 2023

Canadians in bitcoinland are often familiar with the ups and downs associated with the volatility in crypto markets. When the price of Bitcoin and Ether are tearing up the charts, greed can sometimes cloud one’s judgement which can result in an open window for bad guys to slip through when the opportunity strikes.

That having been said, it’s always a good idea to ensure you and your loved ones take due care in protecting each other from nefarious online actors who are out to snatch your hard earned money, one way or another.

The medium of bitcoin, or the larger cryptosphere in general, is attractive to scammers. As fraudsters know very well — in the vast majority of instances, cryptocurrency transactions are irreversible in nature. When your credit card is stolen on vacation, it’s a stressful ordeal and a hassle, but in most instances you can call up your provider and file a report and the funds are insured. Cryptocurrencies are different; once your funds are gone, it’s nearly impossible to recoup stolen digital asset property.

Types of Scams

Let’s take a look at a few of Canada’s top scams in 2023. By no means is this list exhaustive but these are the fraudster’s choice when attempting to steal money from Canadians:

Investments Scams

Scams framed as “investments” usually begin on social media and promise juicy gains that are ‘too good to be true’ in nature. Somebody posing as a ‘money manager’, ‘fund manager’ or an ‘online broker’ will cosy up to their target, even befriending them over long periods of time to gain trust before building up to “the big one”.

Once they get your money, they’ll sometimes tell you or even display on their fake platform how much you’ve earned to date, but then will ask for more funds to ‘unlock’ your profits. This is known as ‘double dipping’. You should never have to pay to get your money, as such is almost always a sure-fire sign that a fraud is taking place.

Romance Scams

These fraudsters prey on their victim’s emotions and/or loneliness, and the dialogue usually shifts from social/romantic conversation toward financial investment at some point. Similar to investment scams, these can occur over longer periods of time, giving the illusion that the victim knows the perpetrator well and therefore trusts them.

Dating websites can be a hotbed for romance scammers to await their next project, especially in January. The first Sunday in January is referred to as “Dating Sunday”, as many new year’s resolutions are to find love and here in Canada, it’s usually inhospitable weather resulting in more screen time.

If you’ve taken the steps to sign up to meet a romantic partner, you’ve already shown that you’re likely single, perhaps lonely and have more time to invest in developing an online rapport. After gaining the target’s confidence, the actor will casually provide investment advice to advance the heist. Once a bond is solidified, the victim is urged to send the scammer cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.

Elder/Family Scams

Although all fraud is morally reprehensible and illegal, elder fraud and particularly family scams are disturbing. Generally, elder fraud can encompass the aforementioned scams while specifically targeting senior citizens who may be lonelier or suffering from age-related detriments. An ongoing variation is the family scam where the scammer will pose as grandchildren or other family members.

These corrupt individuals will call, email or use social media to connect with the intended victim and ask for financial assistance to get out of time-sensitive situations that tug at the mark’s heartstrings. They will research the targets, so they're able to use family names or look-alike accounts and personal information to earn trust. Always ensure your elderly loved ones have their privacy settings adjusted accordingly and teach them to tell you who they’ve been talking to online, even ask them from time to time to ensure their online safety.

CRA/Government Scams

Unfortunately, this variety of scam is often applied to the ageing population in Canada. CRA scams pose that sensitive information is required so that the target can get a refund or a benefit payment from the Canadian government, in many cases, the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency). The individuals initiating the fraud often intimidate and scare the victim into believing they need to pay an outstanding sum of money to the CRA.

They will then guide them to a bitcoin ATM or platform and instruct them step by step how to purchase bitcoin and send funds to the receiving wallet address which is controlled by the scammer. Another technique is they will direct the person to visit the CRA website which has a different URL address and prompt them to verify their identity by entering personal information, sometimes including banking credentials including passwords.

Be Vigilant, Canada

The best defence against fraud is a good offence. Vigilance is key in combating fraud in Canada. We need to have each other’s backs as modern day scammers are ever evolving in their techniques and processes. Usually, the tell-tale signs are present and visible to a third party evaluating the situation and attempts can be thwarted before it’s too late.

It’s key to talk about online interactions with family members, with an emphasis on our elderly community members. Scammers know to instruct their victims to keep it a secret and pin them with guilt, shame or flat-out blackmail.

What You Can Do

Think you or someone you know has been victimised by a scammer? Contact local police immediately and file a report with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC). Then information collected by these authorities can sometimes help not only you, but other Canadians.

When it comes to fighting fraud and stopping scammers, we’re all in this together.

Published: 2023-03-02

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