Canadian police have issued a pointed warning to citizens in Calgary, Alberta, to beware of employment scams, romance scams and other cryptocurrency-related scams after victims there lost over $22.5 million so far this year.

Alberta officials announced Monday that residents have encountered 340 reported crypto scams since the start of the year. That’s an increase from 2022, when residents lost less than $14 million in 321 reported scams in 12 months.

However, police believe even these figures are “significantly under-reported”.

“While the vast majority of cryptocurrencies are legitimate, it is also a deregulated marketplace and has at times been used by fraudsters as a means of payment in connection with various fraud cases,” Calgary police said Tuesday.

Historically the heart of Canada’s oil industry, the cosmopolitan city of Calgary was ranked third most livable in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) annual ranking of the world’s most liveable cities this summer.

Calgary police did not respond to Decrypt’s request for comment.

The most common forms of fraud identified are investment scams, where victims are promised more money if they transfer money to the scammer first. “Only fraudsters demand full payment in advance,” police noted.

An example would be Michael Saylor’s infamous phishing videos, in which thieves posing as a Bitcoin billionaire promise to double victims’ Bitcoin holdings if they send their BTC to the scammer’s wallet. In January 2022, a Bitcoin user sent $1.1 million worth of BTC to such a scam address.

Police also warned against people promising big returns in crypto markets online and users on social media and online dating apps mentioning crypto investments, saying such messages were “likely a scam.”

According to Chainalysis, scams continue to account for the majority of volumes transferred in crypto-related crimes, including hacks, darknet markets and ransomware attacks. However, the company’s 2023 half-year crypto update suggested that global crypto crime has declined since last year – a trend not seen in Calgary.

A survey of 2,000 Canadians conducted in June by Toronto Metropolitan University found that a third of digital asset owners in Canada have fallen victim to crypto scams.

Aside from outright scams, the RCMP released a warning in July about several Canadians who had their crypto stolen directly from their homes by people posing as “suppliers or authority figures.”

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