Victoria police officers are issuing a warning to the public after two employees from different locations were duped into sending thousands of dollars to alleged sophisticated bitcoin fraudsters on Wednesday. (Black Press Media file photo)

Victoria police officers are issuing a warning to the public after two employees from different locations were duped into sending thousands of dollars to alleged sophisticated bitcoin fraudsters on Wednesday. (Black Press Media file photo)

Sophisticated bitcoin fraudsters steal thousands of dollars from Victoria, Saanich stores

Police warn the public about the phone scam that duped the stores’ employees

Victoria police are issuing a warning to the public after two employees from different locations of a business were duped into sending thousands of dollars to sophisticated bitcoin fraudsters on Wednesday.

Police say in both cases, a man identifying himself as Robert Wells phoned the stores and claimed to be the regional manager. The fraudster claimed that business licences, needed for an impending health inspection, were about to be delivered to the store. He said the stores would have to close without the licences.

While on the phone with the employee, a second fraudster called claiming to be confirming the delivery. They gave a tracking number and demanded payment in advance – in bitcoin.

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The fraudster claiming to be the regional manager then told employees to take money to a local bitcoin ATM. VicPd says the fraudster had detailed information about store operations, including the names and roles of various staff members and store policies. Police say this convinced both employees.

One of the employees took money from the store to a bitcoin ATM, while the other took his own money and the some from the store to make the payment. The caller going by Robert Wells stayed on the phone with each employee as they completed the bitcoin transaction. Police say the employees realized they were victims of the scam after the money had been sent.

VicPD says businesses can protect themselves by providing fraud-awareness training, by having two-step approval processes and confirmation codes for financial transactions and by empowering employees to say no to potential frauds.

Police added that having robust passwords for email accounts can help protect cyber infrastructure, limiting potential fraudsters from accessing company information.

Anyone with information can contact VicPD at 250-995-7654, ext. 1, or report anonymously to Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Anyone who’s experienced a similar fraud attempt, but did not lose any money, can report it to the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre at antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/report-signalez-eng.htm.

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