Cryptocurrency attracts criminals the same as anything else that holds value.
In Swift Current alone, 2022 saw close to $360,000 get swept into various fraud scams, including the budding new concern of crypto scams.
For Swift Current City RCMP's Constable Gary Christopher, these crimes are different from regular fraud, as they often go after people looking to grow their portfolio.
"It's not just the older folks that fall for these scams, [catching] younger people who are looking for a true investment," said Christopher. "Some of the scams out there involve not-so-reputable companies who will entice potential investors to invest their life savings. When the time comes to withdraw the money or to find out how much money they've made, they have no access to their crypto funds."
Christopher says that here in the southwest, there are a few main scams that they worry about.
The first is an authoritative approach wherein bad actors impersonate government agencies like the CRA or police services. They demand payment for outstanding warrants or pretend they are a loved one who needs the target to post bail. Instead of demanding cash or credit, the new angle is to fish for crypto.
"Hopefully the message has gotten out there that those are scams because no agency will take gift cards," said Christopher. "Now they'll say you can go and purchase Bitcoin and then transfer it to their digital wallet."
To be very clear, no government agency will ever ask you to pay in bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency. If anyone ever asks you to purchase bitcoin from a bitcoin ATM for these or similar reasons, they are not to be trusted.
The second scam to be wary of has to do with clicking links on social media. Occasionally, people may see an advertisement in their feed claiming it will help educate them on how to trade in crypto.
"Scammers will say 'OK, send 200 bucks and we will teach you how to turn your life savings/investments into profit," said Christopher.
While they may use terminology to seem like investment experts or like they are knowledgeable in the crypto field, they are simply fishing for a few quick cash grabs. Once someone agrees to send them that first payment, they may claim it didn't go through and that they need the individual to try sending another $200 before they can continue to 'help'.
"They'll turn around and say 'Well, we have some materials to send to you, so why don't you send us more money so we can print off this material and then ship it to you?'," expanded Christopher. "That's kind of a little bit lower dollar figures that victims are losing, but they're still losing money."
The third and final scam is false advertising about cryptocurrency. This one will again often take place on social media. These ones are very dangerous because they make use of get-rich-quick clickbait. The ads trick folks into sending them their entire life savings under the premise of a massive payout. Instead of the opportunity of a lifetime, scammers just pocket the money and are never heard from again.
"Basically, if the investment looks too good to be true, it probably is," summarized Christopher. "It's very important that if you do choose to invest that you use a major reputable trading platform or an online exchange that you trust, and do your research to protect yourself. If you do fall for a scam, report it to us immediately."
It's worth noting that cryptocurrency is very similar to traditional stocks when investing. The value can change, rising and falling. One day it might be worth pennies on the dollar. The next, it could surge ahead in value, turning a large profit for those who bought in while prices were down. The key is, as Christopher said, to use trusted platforms, and to educate oneself before committing any personal finances.
In the combined southern half of the province, closer to $900,000 has been stolen from people in these and other scams over the course of the last year.