British Columbians should be wary of cyber crooks using social media and online dating sites to lure B.C. residents into crypto-asset scams.

In 2021’s first eight months, British Columbians reported $3.5 million in losses from crypto-investment scams — more than triple 2020 losses, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) reported.

And, said CAFC, there’s been a 5,600% increase in fraud to a total of $28.5 million involving cryptocurrency in Canada since 2015.

On average, only five per cent of fraud victims report such incidents to authorities.

“Fraudsters use social media and dating apps to manipulate people looking to make meaningful connections, exploit their victim’s trust, and then defraud them of significant amounts of money,” B.C. Securities Commission director of enforcement Doug Muir said.

“Be extremely wary if you are contacted out of the blue or promised high returns that sound too good to be true,” Muir said. “Always research the investment and the person selling it before you invest.”

The commission, police and the CAFC said fraudsters could run the scams in several ways.

Romance and relationship scams

Scammers may develop online relationships with people and then present an investment opportunity, convincing them to make an initial payment and then continuing to pressure them with sometimes significant losses.

In other cases, crooks will identify a target’s friend and pose as that friend to encourage investment in the…

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