Sarnia residents fall victim to phone scam

File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / diego_cervo

Sarnia police are urging residents to be aware of a bitcoin phone scam after two people recently fell victim to the scheme.

A 24-year-old woman and a 60-year-old woman were scammed during separate incidents just days apart.

Police said a 24-year-old was contacted on October 8 by someone who claimed to be a Canada Border Services Officer. The victim was told she was suspected of money laundering after a package in her name, which contained $75,000 in cash, was received at the border.

She was told that an RCMP officer would call her. During that second call, she provided the fraudster with personal details such as her social insurance number, passport number, and date of birth.

As directed, the 24-year-old paid a so-called fine. She went to a convenience store in the 100 block of Ontario Street and used a UPC code to access a bitcoin machine and deposited $1,420.

A similar incident occurred when a 60-year-old was contacted by a fake RCMP officer on October 13. She was told that a package in her name was being held by CBSA.

The second victim was directed to attend the same convenience store with a bar code sent to her phone for the bitcoin machine and deposited $560. When she was unable to provide an additional $560 as directed, the call ended.

Unfortunately, police said both victims were unable to recover the money they had deposited into the bitcoin machine as funds were transferred to untraceable cryptocurrency accounts.

Sarnia police are reminding residents that government and financial institutions do not operate in this way.

“The easiest way to handle these types of calls is to hang up. You will never be in trouble for hanging up the phone. The longer you stay on the line, the more likely it is that you may fall for a similar scam,” read a police release.

Most frauds go unreported but scam victims are encouraged to file a police report by calling 519-344-8861. Victims can also speak with Victim Services at 519-344-8861 extension 5238.

Residents who have received a similar call but haven’t suffered financial loss can report the occurrence to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca or 1-888-495-8501.