Bitcoin is an open-source digital cryptocurrency.

At the story’s end, she cried bitter tears, absolutely inconsolable at what she’d done — sending $10,000 to fraudsters posing as the police.

It was her life savings as a cleaner in Canada and the scam left her with 33 cents in her chequing account. Within about an hour Monday, it was all gone.

”It’s a tragedy in this particular case, a scandal in the broader one,” said her advocate and occasional employer, Sean Moore, a semi-retired lobbying expert who is a well-known figure in Parliamentary circles.

Her name is Jocelyn. She is 50, married with a daughter. She came to Canada from the Philippines about eight years ago and, for long stretches, worked two jobs: cleaning houses by day and Ottawa’s airport at night. (Postmedia has chosen not to use her last name to spare her any public shaming or future vulnerability.)

She was cleaning Moore’s house this week when her phone rang. A woman said her social insurance number was being used by criminals in a drug-related money laundering scheme. If she could provide the number of the local police station, this could be straightened out. She asked Jocelyn to find the number online, which she did. (She appears to have settled on the RCMP headquarters on the Vanier Parkway.)

A few moments later, a call came in from that number, with the fake caller ID. She was told she needed to empty her bank account that day so the drug cartel would not drain all her funds. She must hurry and speak to no one, as she was under surveillance and a speedy reaction was needed to stop an arrest warrant from proceeding.

She told Moore there was an emergency. She left, emptied her two TD accounts and breathed a sigh a relief. But no, the fraudster — who seemed to never get off the phone — said they weren’t done. He directed her to a Quickie store on Pleasant Park Drive and told her to find the yellow ATM. It was a Bitcoin machine.

Though it had a fraud warning label on the front, Jocelyn followed instructions and proceeded to pump $50 and $100 bills into the slot, on the promise she would get $10,000 back and a new SIN card the next day.

Back on the road, she spoke to a friend who said she’d almost certainly been scammed. She immediately told Moore the story and he was livid. Not a shy man, he quickly called police, only to get a recording. Then he called Quickie and asked that the machine be frozen or unplugged to retrieve her cash. He was under the impression it would be.

The next day, Moore and Jocelyn retraced her steps to the TD, where he registered a complaint that the bank should have better safeguards in the event a client suddenly empties all accounts for mysterious reasons.

He visited the Quickie store, only to find the machine still operating and a woman whispering into a cell phone, about to pump bills into the same ATM. He admits he made a scene with staff. Police were eventually called, as was Quickie vice-president and general manager Paul Wiseman, with whom he’d spoken earlier.

Nothing, evidently, could be done.

Wiseman defends the presence of the ATMs — in about 20 per cent of the chain’s 50-some outlets — because Bitcoin is a legal currency that customers are interested in.

“We are simply a landlord and they are simply a tenant.”

After an initial problem some years ago, Wiseman said the company insisted a visible warning be put on the ATMs and added that store staff often warn people about making suspicious transactions.

“I don’t think we should be held accountable for people who have been warned,” he said Friday, claiming that store staff spoke to Jocelyn about her purchase. (She adamantly denies this.) “Minimal” is how Wiseman described the number of complaints in the last four years.

“People are responsible for their own actions.”

The bank, meanwhile, says staff are trained to ask questions about the purpose of large withdrawals, caution customers about scams and suggest options other than cash. Clients are given a form to sign that acknowledges the risks have been explained.

Police across Canada are familiar with the misuse of Bitcoin as a way to defraud phone targets, as it pops up in the so-called CRA scam where, typically, an impending arrest is also used as a threat. The RCMP have issued several Bitcoin warnings this year alone.

“Bitcoin is a worldwide virtual currency and digital payment system. It is unregulated, untraceable, and nearly impossible to recover money lost,” said Ottawa police Sgt. Chantal Arsenault of the fraud unit.

“For the most part, these fraudsters are not even in Canada, despite a call display seeming local including that of a local Police Station. For this reason it is nearly impossible for Police to resolve these complaints. The suspects are very good at covering their tracks and can disguise their contact numbers and computer IP addresses. “

She added, gloomily, that Ottawa police have had “no successful investigations” of this kind of fraud.

Moore, meanwhile, is exasperated because no one is taking ownership of the problem — in fact, all seem blasé about it. The police, apparently, can do nothing; the bank said it followed the rules; Quickie says it’s a minor problem, not of their making, and the ATM company actually had its lawyer call Moore to calm him down.

But he connects obvious dots: Bitcoin abuse appears to be growing, and low-income immigrant families are frequently popping up as targets. (The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre reports more than 49,000 frauds in 2019, a number thought to be woefully short of the actual number.)

A New York Times story in January said the amount of Bitcoin going into fraudulent activity hit a new high in 2019, amassing some $3.5 billion US from “millions of victims.” And now one more.

“It is very painful,” Jocelyn said. “I thought it was all really, really true.”

To contact Kelly Egan, please call 613-291-6265 or email kegan@postmedia.com.

Twitter.com/kellyegancolumn

(Excerpt) Read more Here | 2020-07-06 07:37:30
Image credit: source

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