Edmonton police responded to 6,492 incidents of fraud to in 2019, resulting in losses of almost $35 million, Chief Dale McFee said Monday.
The cases involved extortion, cheque fraud, online scams, fraudulent contracts, general complaints and identity theft, he said.
“The scams that took most of the money from our citizens were bank frauds, business frauds and romance scams,” McFee said, kicking off Fraud Prevention Month.
People need to know how to use social media sites safely and educate themselves on the scams and frauds committed on those platforms, he said.
‘I was just a victim of a scam’
Edmontonians lost $723,000 to fraudulent online merchandise and ticket sales in 2019.
Edmonton Oilers hockey fan Keith Pulles described to reporters at a news conference Monday how he was defrauded of $600 in an online ticket scam.
The scammer went through an elaborate process that involved a third party, an e-transfer and bitcoin, he said.
While uncomfortable with using bitcoin, Pulles eventually relented saying he felt he had developed a rapport with the man after talking with him on the phone several times.
After the bitcoin was sent, no tickets arrived, Pulles said.
“You get that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach like ‘Oh wow. I was just a victim of a scam,'” he said.
Pulles advises people to trust their instincts when confronted with a situation that makes them uncomfortable, such as using bitcoin.
Pulles reported the scam to police, but many other cases are not, McFee said.
“We know there are many citizens who have been taken advantage of by scammers and do not have the strength to come forward and report what they’ve been through and what they have lost because they are too afraid or perhaps embarrassed,” he said.
McFee encourages anyone who may have been a victim of fraud to contact police because the information they provide can be used by investigators to catch fraudsters and to develop better ways to protect others.