Phone scammers impersonating police in Greater Victoria

WatchScam calls have been increasingly pestering Canadians Coast to Coast over the last few weeks. But as Julian Kolsut found out in a concerning twist, scammers are masking their numbers to look like local police, asking for payments in Bitcoin.

If you’ve heard your ringtone lately, you might have hesitated to answer.

In the last few weeks, some Canadians are reporting an increase in fraudulent calls. But a new tactic has law enforcement in Greater Victoria stunned.

“These callers have sunk to a new level, they have been spoofing the number of our police department and demanding money by way of depositing into a bitcoin after they reveal they have the last three digits of your social insurance number,” said Detective Sergeant Damian Kowalewich with the Saanich police.

Spoofing is when fraudsters can alter the caller ID to show a specific name and number.

Officers say reports of phone scams, where callers allege they are the Canada Revenue Agency or Service Canada, are aplenty — but this is unheard of.

“Dropping down to a local level like this is certainly unique and its something I’ve never seen in my career,” said Kowalewich.

“It’s very challenging because most resident of Saanich would not believe that scammers would sink to that level but it looks like they have.”

And it’s not just in Saanich, Victoria police are reporting the same scam with certain callers even imitating specific officers.

Security expert Darren Laur says call spoofing has become as easy as lifting a finger, just download an app.

“I plugged in the information that this call I’m about to make it going to come from the RCMP from Vancouver, so all of a sudden I go to activate the call you will see that as it rings… it shows RCMP Vancouver,” said Laur as he showed how easy it was.

“Spoofing phone calls like this has been around for a long time, It’s just its become easier to do with the technology that is out there now, and to be able to put it out to thousands of people, knowing you will get some bites from a couple individuals, and once you get those bites that’s the money you are looking to put in your pocket.”

He says there is a solution to calls that seem very real.

“Before you provide anything, figure out who they are from, the Canada revenue agency or the central Saanich police, then phone them directly and say hey I just got a call from your organization,” said Laur.

Officials say they would never demand payment over the phone, especially through bitcoin or gift cards.

They suggest speaking to groups like seniors who may be more vulnerable to the scam, and to not argue with the caller and hang up.

Victims are urged to contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre with details of the spoofed call — the organization itself has even been targeted by fraudsters.

Julian KolsutJulian Kolsut

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