Date: Friday, May 21, 2021
Files: 21-19677, SA 21-11172
Victoria, BC – Officers are warning the public after a sophisticated bitcoin fraud targeted employees at two outlets for the same retailer in Victoria and Saanich, stealing thousands of dollars.
Store staff notified both VicPD and Saanich Police Department investigators after discovering the nearly simultaneous frauds, which occurred Wednesday afternoon.
In both circumstances, a man who identified himself as “Robert Wells” telephoned the retail location, claiming to be the regional manager. The fraudster claimed that business licenses, needed for an impending health inspection, were about to be delivered to the store. Without the license, he told the staff member, the location would be closed. While on the phone with the employee, a second fraudster called the store, claiming to be from a delivery company, ‘confirming’ the delivery, giving a tracking number and demanding payment in advance of arrival – in bitcoin.
The fraudster claiming to be the regional manager then directed the employees to take money to a local bitcoin ATM. The fraudster had detailed information about the operations of both stores, including the names and roles of various staff persons and store policies. This familiarity with the stores convinced both employees that the fraudsters were who they claimed to be.
In one of the incidents, an employee took money from the store to the bitcoin ATM. In the other incident, the employee took both funds from the store and from their own personal account to the bitcoin ATM to make the payment.
“Robert Wells” stayed on the phone with each employee until they completed the bitcoin transaction. It was only after completing the transaction that either employee realized they had fallen victim to professional fraudsters.
How you can protect yourself
Businesses, especially those with multiple locations, can protect themselves by providing in-house fraud awareness training and sharing warnings like this alert with their staff. Institute clear, two-step approval processes and confirmation codes for financial transactions, and empower your employees to say “no” to potential frauds. Protecting your cyber infrastructure, which includes requiring robust passwords for email accounts, can help avoid intrusion into your network and giving professional fraudsters access to internal information which they can and will use to target your employees.
If you have information about this incident, or experienced a similar loss in Victoria or Esquimalt, please call the VicPD Report Desk at (250) 995-7654 extension 1. If you experienced a similar fraud attempt, but did not lose any money, please report it to the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre at https://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/report-signalez-eng.htm/.