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Distraught Southern Ont. senior loses nearly $10,000 in Bitcoin scam

'I want people to be aware of this,' says Severn senior swindled by scammers who took control of her computer screen; OPP offers tips to prevent fraud
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ORILLIA — A senior from Severn Township has been victimized in a Bitcoin scam and has lost almost $10,000.

The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, was watching a TV morning show via Facebook in which the host was showing how easy it is to invest in Bitcoin with the click of a few buttons.

“At the end of that feed, it said if you are interested, leave your name and your phone number,” the local senior explained. “A couple of days later, they called me and set me up.”

The 70-year-old woman described herself to the scammers, who said they were from a company called Forefront Capital London, as “computer illiterate,” and they took full advantage of it. The scammers asked to help the woman but said they would need her to share her computer screen with them.

“I had no idea that sharing a computer screen would end up in all this,” she said. “My bank statements say a company called Simply Digital Technologies took $9,999, which was without consent. I didn’t even know it was happening.”

When she submitted a fraud claim to her bank, she was told there was nothing she could do because she provided the scammers with her personal identification number, or PIN.

“I didn’t give them my (PIN),” she said. “So, now I’m a little pissed with the bank who I have been a customer of for decades.”

She is a cancer survivor who had been through many radiation treatments and even lost one of her eyes.

“That probably attributed to this; it makes it hard to see the computer,” she said, “but I know I definitely did not give them permission to go into my bank account.” 

In dealing with the scammers and trying to get her money back, she said she was met with derogatory language and was mocked for being elderly and vulnerable.

“I want people to be aware of this,” she said. “It’s all I can really do at this point.”

She is worried about what other personal or banking information has been wiped from her computer and fears the nightmare could be long from over.

Orillia OPP Const. Brett Boniface said incidences of such scams are rising.

He said losses reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre in 2021 reached “an all-time high” of $379 million. However, the actual losses are almost assuredly much, much higher.

“It is believed the vast majority — 95 per cent — of fraud occurrences go unreported to police,” said Boniface. 

While police are aware of such scams, they are difficult to thwart, he said.

“Fraud investigations over electronic devices are very complex investigations, as fraudsters can hide behind multiple IP addresses and utilize their computer skills to make themselves virtually untraceable,” Boniface told OrilliaMatters.

“Funds that are obtained through fraud directly fund other criminal activities,” he added.

“The OPP encourages everyone to take steps to protect themselves from fraud. Always seek independent advice from family members, a trusted friend or adviser if any offers or requests involve providing money or personal information.”

He said the OPP Auxiliary program is currently running a province-wide initiative to provide further education to citizens about scams. 

“Regardless of age, gender or location, everyone can take basic steps to better protect themselves from becoming a victim of fraud,” he said.

He provided the following tips to prevent fraud:

  • Never let anyone pressure you into acting immediately. Take your time, slow down. You are in control of your information.
  • Do not provide any personal information to someone you don’t know or trust.
  • Hang up a call or leave any website if you become uncomfortable during the interaction.
  • Never click on links provided to you in an unsolicited email, text message or on social media websites. These are opportunities that can be used by offenders to steal your information. For example, the Canada Revenue Agency will never send you a link asking for personal or financial information.
  • Navigate to legitimate websites and services on your own.
  • Never send money to anyone you don’t know. A demand for immediate payment by money transfers (Western Union, MoneyGram), gift cards (iTunes, Google Play or Amazon cards) or Bitcoin is a red flag and a sign to hang up the call or end the web session.

— With files from Dave Dawson