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RCMP in Richmond, B.C., say they have received 22 reports of alleged cryptocurrency fraud since January with losses topping $2.6-million.

A statement from the detachment says Richmond residents are mainly being snared in one of three common scams.

These include fake investment opportunities, a romance con or contact with someone the victim believes represents a government agency.

Investigators say in one recent case, a single victim lost $550,000 when he was duped into making a series of investments in foreign exchange companies that turned out to be fake.

Police say the fraudsters use tactics ranging from charm to threats and, in most cases, ask or order the victim to send Bitcoin payments, Google Play or iTunes gift cards.

Cpl. Melissa Liu with the Richmond RCMP economic crime unit says the thieves are adept at quickly moving any payment so it can’t be traced and education and awareness are the best ways to avoid becoming a victim.

“If someone claiming to be from a government agency asks for Bitcoin, Google Play or iTunes gift cards as a method of payment hang up immediately,” says the RCMP statement, because “no government agency would accept these methods as payment.”

Police also urge investors to do considerable homework before handing over their money and warn that if a new online friend avoids invitations to meet in person but frequently discusses “investment opportunities,” it might be best to end the relationship.

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