Edmonton

'Nest of lies': Edmontonians get scammed twice by online syndicates

Police are warning Edmontonians to be wary of a new kind of financial fraud that targets people who have previously fallen prey to online scams.

'If it is too good to be true, it probably is'

Police are warning of new intricate scams that targets victims who have already fallen prey to online fraud. (Kacper Pempel/Reuters)

Police are warning Edmontonians to be wary of a new kind of financial fraud that targets people who have previously fallen prey to online romance scams.

Local victims have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars to intricate online scams orchestrated by criminal syndicates, police said in a news release Friday.

Edmonton police describe the schemes as "scam nests." 

"Scammers create an intricate and detailed illusion, which is why victims believe it is real," police said. "It is extremely well done."

In these new scams, victims who have been previously defrauded are offered help to deal with the financial loss by consolidating their debt, for a fee.

'Money-making business' 

    The scams can also involve fake inheritance settlements, police said. In those cases, online "loved ones" will promise to transfer their inheritance to victims, for a fee. The victims are then connected with a lawyer who sets up transfers, providing the victim with fake banking documentation.

    The victim is then charged exorbitant fees for processing and tax payments to either the CRA or the IRS.

    "It is a fairly sophisticated fraud where "faker makers" are hired to craft a very plausible scenario for victims to fall for," Det. Linda Herczeg said in a statement. "So many people are involved to create this nest of lies, but it's their money-making business.

    "They have no issues with taking as much money and information as they can convince you to give."

    "Faker makers" are integral to facilitating online frauds, police said. The fraudsters typically belong to a scam syndicate or may be servicing multiple syndicates.

    The boss of the syndicate creates a series of fake entities for a scammer to use, including fake profiles for lawyers, federal tax agents and banks. They also create fraudulent, authentic-looking internet sites to trick their victims, police said. 

    People can protect themselves by doing research, police said. Confirm online organizations are legitimate and be cautious of any transactions with internet strangers.

    "If it is too good to be true, it probably is," police said.

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