Police impersonation scam tricks B.C. woman out of $15K
VANCOUVER -- A woman in New Westminster says she's frustrated after a "very believable" scam left her with an empty bank account Thursday.
Chloe Zhao told CTV News Vancouver she got a call in the morning from someone claiming to be from Service Canada, who said her social insurance number had been compromised and 10 credit cards had been taken out in her name.
The woman on the line told Zhao that local police would be calling her later in the day with instructions on what to do next.
Sure enough, Zhao received another call from a number that appeared to be Coquitlam RCMP. This time, a man was on the line. He said he was a police officer, and provided a full name and badge number, then instructed her to empty her bank account and deposit the money into a Bitcoin ATM.
The idea, Zhao said, was that she would get access to the money again on Friday, and could create new accounts using a new SIN that would be issued to her.
She withdrew $15,000 and deposited it in a Bitcoin ATM at a convenience store, and it was only when the scammers called again and told her to deposit more money that she realized something was wrong.
"This is a really elaborate, detailed scheme, so you can't believe this is a fraud at the time, right? I only realized later on," Zhao said.
She called police and filed a report, but says she's not particularly hopeful that they'll be able to get her money back.
"Basically, at this point, they said there's nothing they can do," Zhao said. "I talked to the owner of the grocery store. Of course, they can't do anything."
Zhao is far from the first person to fall victim to scammers. She said when she filed her police report, she was informed that others had recently called to report similar incidents.
In an email, a spokesperson for Coquitlam RCMP told CTV News the detachment was unable to confirm Zhao's specific case, but had received multiple reports in recent days of fraudulent calls appearing to come from government agencies and police.
"Coquitlam RCMP does not make phone calls like this or request payment over the phone," the spokesperson said.
On Wednesday, Surrey RCMP issued a press release warning the public about a surge in reports of scammers impersonating members of the RCMP or the Canada Border Services Agency.
Surrey RCMP said they received five reports of such a scam on Tuesday. In each case, the callers claimed to be officers and requested a sum of money in Bitcoin in exchange for criminal charges being waived.
In some of the cases, the victim transferred funds to the caller, police said.
Anyone who receives a call of this type is urged not to send any money and to report the incident to their local police.
"There is no circumstance where police will contact individuals requesting Bitcoin," said Sgt. Ryan Forbes of the Surrey RCMP Economic Crime Unit in the release. "These scammers typically contact hundreds of people hoping that someone will send them money."
Surrey RCMP also recommends reporting these scams to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre either online or by calling 1-888-495-8501.