An ongoing Canada Revenue Agency scam has taken a high-tech turn that’s defrauded members of the public out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Police in York Region said 40 victims in the community have sent more than $300,000 to fraudsters using Bitcoin machines.
Police said the victims have been contacted by phone and told that they have overdue taxes to pay and if they don’t, they will be arrested. In the recent cases, the victims have been told to send their money using Bitcoin ATMs.
A woman named Linda fell victim to the scam and lost $12,000.
In the video below, at a press conference on Wednesday, she described how she received a phone call from whom she thought was a York police officer.
“The way they work is they tell you you owe this much money and they are coming for your arrest. And if you do not opt to do an early resolution, that the police will be on my doorstep to arrest me. Then they go on to tell you you’ll lose your passport, you’ll lose your credit cards … you’ll lose your life, basically,” she described.
The woman in the video below, holding an envelope stuffed with cash, deposits her money into a Bitcoin machine in Richmond Hill. She thinks she is avoiding arrest due to unpaid taxes – but is actually falling victim to a new version of the CRA scam.
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Unfortunately, Bitcoin is a worldwide virtual currency that is not regulated by a central body, which police say makes it impossible for victims to get their money back once its been deposited into a machine and transferred to a “virtual wallet.”
Police said the transactions are also untraceable, which makes the investigation particularly challenging.
“I can completely understand when a victim loses any kind of money they feel terrible, and it’s quite understandable they would want to find a way to get their money back. It speaks to the desperation, but unfortunately this isn’t the way they are going to get their money back,” Detective Rob Vingerhoets of York regional police’s financial crime unit said.
The man in the video below kicks a Bitcoin ATM in Richmond Hill, after learning a loved one was defrauded.
Police have charged him with mischief causing property damage.
Mahood Al-Rubayee owns a convenience store in Richmond Hill and said his Bitcoin ATM was used as part of the scam. He told CityNews he no longer feels safe having the machine in his store.
“Even at the store we don’t feel safe to be here. My employees keep telling me ‘what are going to do if it happens again?'” he explained.
“To be honest the last two weeks I’ve been thinking about getting rid of it.”
According to police, the following locations have Bitcoin ATMs that victims have used in the scam:
- Initium Café – 8241 Woodbine Avenue, Markham
- Burrito Squad – 28-9699 Jane Street, Vaughan
- Wonderland Convenience – 9661 Jane Street, Vaughan
- Hasty Market – 11005 Yonge Street, Richmond Hill
Police said the stores are not believed to be involved in the scam.
Officials want to remind the public that police do not arrest people for overdue taxes and doesn’t participate in tax collecting of any kind.
Police are asking anyone who has been a victim of a fraud, and have lost money, to report the incident to the York Regional Police Financial Crimes Unit at 1-866-876-5423 (ext. 6612). To report frauds where no money has been lost, contact the the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre online or by calling 1-888-495-8501.