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Police: It's nearly impossible to track down Bitcoin scammers

Last Updated Nov 17, 2017 at 7:04 pm EDT

A technological twist on an old Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) phone scam is making it almost impossible to catch assailants, say police.

Phone scammers are getting their victims to deposit money into a Bitcoin machine — turning that cash into a digital currency that’s nearly impossible to trace.

They’re also getting more savvy: they’re using the identities of family members to convince unsuspecting victims to shell out thousands of dollars.

A common complaint among victims is that police aren’t doing enough to track down the scammers. But police say they share those frustrations.

“The reality is a thing like Bitcoin, a crypto-currency, we are just learning about ourselves and the ramifications,” said Staff Sgt. Mike Elliott with York Regional Police.

“As with anything in policing, we have to prioritize and we look for what is going to [have the] most impact for the public.”

A cybersecurity expert said even those who specialize in the field can find it nearly impossible to get to the source of a scam.

Mick Bhinder, CEO of Toronto-based IAmI Authentications, said police and victims face enormous challenges with this new type of crime.

“There’s no way to investigate when they use scams to call people through IP tech and look for payment through Bitcoin,” he told CityNews.

“It’s virtually impossible to detect where they are and how to track them down. They stay in the shadows and use tech to keep them in the shadow.”

Police say despite the bleak reality of Bitcoin scams, victims should report the incidents because any information could help with future cases.

Related stories:

New phone scam mimics family members’ identities

Toronto-area police warn of Bitcoin tax scam after more than 40 people defrauded

40 victims come forward in latest Revenue Canada scam involving Bitcoin ATMs