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Nov. 30, 2020

Scam-savvy couple intervenes to help victim

Retail stores – and those who work in and own these businesses – can have a big role to play in helping to stop a growing type of fraud. Mike’s Convenience Store in North Delta has already stopped a number of customers from losing thousands of dollars to scammers who tried dupe their victims into making deposits into a Bitcoin ATM located in the store.

On November 12, Constable Dustin Classen from the Delta Police Cybercrime Unit stopped by the store to proactively reach out to owner Sarita Patel and her husband Ravi.

“We talked about common bitcoin scams and they agreed to post warning signage around the Bitcoin ATM,” says Cst. Classen. Common scams might involve threats to arrest people for alleged non-payment of taxes (CRA scam), that people could face being deported, etc.

Hours after Cst. Classen left the store Sarita and Ravi were able to stop a young man from depositing $5,500 in the ATM, as part of an attempted scam.

Unfortunately it’s not the only time they’ve felt compelled to take action.

“We’ve stopped others – young people, seniors,” says Ravi Patel. He explains that in his experience some of the people targeted are alone, and have no one to speak to when they receive the threatening call. “They are worried about their future. Maybe they are new to Canada, and they don’t understand,” he explains. Mr. Patel speaks five languages, including Punjabi and Hindi, so is uniquely able to help.

Often times he says the scammers will keep their victims on the phone for hours, using threats and intimidation, refusing to let them talk to anyone else who could intervene and stop them from losing money. It’s challenging for Ravi and Sarita to get the potential victim’s attention, and convince them not to follow through on the scam.

It’s a tactic Cst. Classen is also familiar with.

“It’s a high pressure tactic, and these scammers often target victims who are unfamiliar with Canadian laws,” says Cst. Classen. “The key takeaway – you cannot pay your taxes or utility bills through bitcoin ATMS in Canada. Anyone who directs you to do this is trying to steal your money.”

The young man who nearly deposited $5,500 in bitcoin got back in touch with the Patels, thanking them via text for stopping him from spending months of savings. “You are a breath of fresh air in this society and I appreciate you so much,” he wrote.

“This kind of gesture helps us in boosting up our energy levels to serve the beautiful North Delta community. We find our purpose of coming to Canada and serving nice people is coming true,” says Mr. Patel.