Features | From Pivot Magazine

A catalogue of the latest cons and scams

Real estate renter fraud, a Bitcoin scam and the number of Canadians duped by scammers since the pandemic began

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Une main tient une pièce d'or avec le logo BitcoinAn elderly woman in Kelowna, B.C. was conned out of $34,000 due to an elaborate Bitcoin scam (Photo courtesy iStock)


In August, a couple purchased a town home in Ottawa’s Barrhaven neighbourhood and listed the income property to rent through an MLS agent. A few weeks later, the agent contacted the couple to tell them their tenant was complaining about a supposed unexpected rent increase. The problem? The couple had yet to rent out their home. The so-called tenant, it turned out, had replied to a Kijiji listing for the property and negotiated rent prices and other arrangements via a series of text messages with a scammer. “Under normal circumstances, yes, this would have raised some red flags,” said the 36-year-old renter, who e-transferred over $4,000 to the perpetrator, presuming the lack of a face-to-face meeting was common protocol during the era of COVID-19. How did the renter access the home? The victims believe the scammer acquired the lock box code by fraudulently posing as a realtor on a website that facilitates realty showings. Ontario police warn prospective renters to look for duplicate listings and exercise vigilance when searching for properties online.


Amount an elderly woman in Kelowna, B.C., was conned out of due to an elaborate Bitcoin scam. Intrigued by the opportunity in cryptocurrency investment, the woman entered her contact information on a website promoting Bitcoin. The site appeared legitimate but was far from it. What followed was a barrage of phone calls and emails—up to two dozen a day—instructing her how to e-transfer money to a fraudulent account. The scam even featured a banking portal with a bogus two-factor authentication process that showed a fake account balance. What began as a $250 investment quickly “snowballed” until the woman’s daughter intervened. The phone numbers have reportedly been deleted and an RCMP investigation is underway.


The pandemic, it turns out, has been a boom time for scammers, who have found myriad ways to dupe Canadians out of their money since lockdowns began in March 2020. Here’s a look at the extent of their damage:


Canadian reports of COVID-19 fraud 


Canadian victims of COVID-19 fraud 


Lost to COVID-19 fraud


Protect yourself from scammers with CPA Canada’s book, Uncovering fraud: True stories about fraud, fraudsters and how they got caught.