Airdronians warned to look out for online fraud

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Airdrie residents looking to invest funds online should take note of a growing number of investment scams, according to the Alberta Securities Commission (ASC).

According to Hilary McMeekin, manager of communications at the ASC, most scams go unreported but tend to have the same type of red flags.

“Across the board, fraudsters are getting more sophisticated with more digital tools, but the nature of these scams are very similar,” she said. “There are red flags to be mindful of, (such as) guaranteed high rates of return with no risk.”

Online investment scams typically involve the solicitation of funds in exchange for investments that don’t exist. McMeekin said examples of online fraud include foreign exchange, Ponzi and cryptocurrency scams.

“(Investors) should do the research by doing a registration check – is this investment opportunity real?” she said. “Sometimes, with Google, you can find all sorts of things. It’s worth taking the time to do a Google search, do a registration search.”

Cryptocurrency scams involve digital currencies such as Bitcoin. According to McMeekin, fraudsters will often draw potential investors in on social networks like Facebook or Kijiji.

“It makes you feel like you’re getting in on the next big thing, as opposed to it being an actual real or true company that you’re getting into,” she said.

Fraudsters will also often seize on trends being covered in the media, such as foreign exchange trading.

“If there is news of an industry doing well in Europe or somewhere else, fraudsters reach out to you to advertise on your favourite social channel,” McMeekin said. “Whatever the channel, they’re advertising and they’re hooking in with promises of great rates of return.”

Airdrie RCMP Media Liaison Const. Dan Martin said he expected most Airdronians have come across an investment scam at some point.

“We see fraud of all sorts, from phone calls to text messages to email and definitely a lot of online fraud for sure,” he said.

“I’m sure that anyone that has an email address has a junk folder that is filled with fraudulent emails. Always exercise extreme caution to ensure it is from a trusted sender.”

March will mark the 14th anniversary of Fraud Prevention Month in Canada, and McMeekin said she hopes Albertans will do their research, including with calls to the ASC.

“We completely understand the desire for Albertans to make money with their money and we’re all for a healthy market that enables you to do that,” McMeekin said.

“(We want) people to stop and do their research and do the steps to find out. It’s worth the time that it takes to use the tools at your fingertips.”

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