Features | From Pivot Magazine

The most outlandish recent shams and scams 

A round-up of frauds, including an action-figure bandit and an AI-powered heist

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the Hulk action figureOne scammer collected tens of thousands of dollars by manipulating bar codes on items, including Marvel superhero action figures, buying them for less, and selling them at a premium. (Alamy)

GRANT SCAM

Nickname for a widespread scheme in which online fraudsters pose as the Government of Canada and promise “free money” for business financing or personal spending, so long as the recipient agrees to pay an application fee upfront.

€220,000

Sum that a British energy company wired to a secret Hungarian bank account in one of the world’s first AI-powered heists. The employee who sent the money believed he was following orders from his CEO, but the eerily lifelike voice that handed down the order over the phone actually belonged to speech-mimicking software.

$30,000

Approximate value of goods—including Marvel superhero action figures and DVD box sets of The Office and Friends—that a 37-year-old man is alleged to have purchased fraudulently from big-box stores in Alberta and Saskatchewan. The suspect reportedly manipulated the bar codes of the items so that they would cost less, bought them at automated check-outs to avoid getting caught and then resold them for a premium.

$15,700,000

Amount that a self-described foreign-currency trader in Toronto took from investors—including his in-laws and longtime family doctor—through a sophisticated Ponzi scheme that dates back to 2009. He promised clients huge returns, but instead used their money to pay his rent, debt and legal expenses. He was sentenced to nine years in prison in September.

$1,700,000

Amount that a former CIBC branch manager in Hamilton, Ont., stole from the accounts of seniors and recently deceased bank customers between 2008 and 2015. The 60-year-old woman now faces fraud and breach of trust charges.

“OUR HOUSE IS NOT FOR RENT, NEVER HAS BEEN, NEVER WILL BE”

Statement from a Langley, B.C., resident after a string of would-be renters showed up at his door expecting to find a vacant home. He discovered that a scammer had posted a phony Craigslist ad for his house, posed as its landlord and accepted $800 deposits from several people interested in renting the property.

FRAUD FIGHTERS

$1,040,000

Amount that the city of Saskatoon recovered from scammers in September 2019. Earlier in the year, the municipality lost the money to someone masquerading as the CFO of a local construction company. The city spent three months recovering the funds, which were locked in roughly a dozen different bank accounts.

“I’M A VERY ENTHUSIASTIC BUSINESSMAN AND THINK £1,000 IS AN INSULT”

Response that University of Limerick student Ross Walsh sent to an online swindler who’d asked for a £1,000 investment. Walsh countered that he actually wanted to invest £50,000 if only the perp would send him £25 to prove it wasn’t a sham. When he did, Walsh gave the money to the Irish Cancer Society, marking the third time he’s turned the tables on a scammer and donated the loot.