Victoria police are warning the public after a sophisticated bitcoin fraud stole thousands from two retail outlets, one in Saanich and one in Victoria.
Police say the frauds occurred Wednesday and store employees both reported the frauds to VicPD and Saanich Police. The frauds were nearly simultaneous, according to police.
Police say that a man using the name “Robert Wells” phoned the retail location in both incidents, claiming he was the regional manager. The man said business licences, needed for a health inspection, were about to be delivered to the store. The man told the employee that the store would be closed if they didn’t have the licences, according to police.
While on the phone with the employee, a second fraudster called the store and told them he was from a delivery company. The person called to give a tracking number and demand payment in bitcoin before arrival, according to police.
The fraudster claiming to be the regional manager then instructed the employees to take money to a bitcoin ATM, said police.
The fraudster had very detailed information about both stores, including the names and roles of staff, and was able to convince the employees they were who they claimed to be, according to police.
Police say one of the employees took money from the store and deposited it into the ATM, while the other took money from the store and their personal account. The employees only realized they had fallen victim to fraud after the transaction, according to police.
Police say businesses with multiple locations can protect themselves by providing in-house fraud awareness training, institute clear, two-step approval processes and confirmation codes for financial transactions and empower employees to say “no” to potential frauds.
They also say having strong passwords for things like email accounts can help prevent fraudsters from gaining internal information.
Police are asking anyone with information about this incident or have experienced similar loss to call the VicPD report desk at (250) 995-7654 extension 1.
If anyone has experienced a similar fraud attempt but has not lost any money, police say to report it to the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre.