P.E.I. man warns of internet scam after losing $17K
‘It’s a pandemic, all the scamming that’s going on right now’
It started with a message popping up on Don MacFadyen's computer claiming to be from Microsoft.
"I would certainly hate to see this happen to anybody else," said MacFadyen. "It's a pandemic, all the scamming that's going on right now."
In mid-June, MacFadyen was using his home computer when he saw the message on his screen, he said. It claimed someone was trying to hack his bank account and he would be contacted by telephone the next day and told how to protect his funds.
When the scammer called, MacFadyen was told to take cash out of his bank and transfer into a digital currency via a bitcoin machine.
"He wanted all my money withdrawn," said MacFadyen.
"He wanted $17,000 withdrawn from my account and I wasn't supposed to tell anybody."
MacFadyen said the scammer told him the attempted hacking was under investigation and to stay quiet so they could catch the predator.
After MacFadyen transferred the money into a bitcoin machine in Charlottetown, he was told to use other money to buy several thousands of dollars worth of Google Play gift cards.
"And then I got the sneaking suspicion that this just does not feel right," said MacFadyen.
Similar case of fraud taken to court
When he called police, MacFadyen learned he wasn't the first victim of this kind of scam in P.E.I.
In 2019, a woman deposited $62,000 into a bitcoin machine in Charlottetown, believing she was paying owed taxes.
She took the bitcoin machine company to court to try to get her money back, but a judge ruled the money belonged to that company, which hadn't perpetrated the scam.
Staff-Sergeant Kevin Baillie, of the Prince Edward Island RCMP, said if someone purports to be calling from a bank or governmental department and asks for money in the form of gift cards, it's a sure sign of a scam.
Baillie said the pandemic could be putting more people at risk of becoming a victim of fraud.
"If people are kind of holed up in their home or working from home, not getting out of the house, they may be paying more attention to emails and phone calls," said Baillie.
MacFadyen said while he has little chance of getting his money back, he hopes to stop others from falling into the same trap.