Police warn of new twist on mass-marketing extortion scam
Police are warning citizens of a new form of mass-marketing fraud believed to be run by international fraudsters targeting a wide variety of victims across the globe that has resulted in 22 reports from Calgarians to local police in the last six weeks.
Typically, victims receive an unsolicited text message from an international number with the scammer claiming the victim owes between $500 - $8,000 for using personal services. If payment is not received, the scammer proceeds to send the victim graphic and violent photos, in an effort to intimidate victims into sending payment, along with threats that they or their family maybe targeted or harmed.
Based on reports received so far, three victims have lost a combined total of $4,000.
“Mass-marketing fraud is a crime that uses low or no-cost mass-marketing tools with a goal of defrauding the victims with a promise, story or threat,” says Staff Sergeant Geoff Gawlinski of the Calgary Police Service Economic Crimes Unit. “As technology advances, so do the tactics of fraudsters, as they are able to cast a wide net to reach people around the world in hopes of capitalizing on the fear and emotions of potential victims.”
In most cases reported to the Calgary Police Service, the fraudster uses the name “Edgar Ortega VALDEZ” along with the phone number 562-579-8694.
Online extortion scams can be difficult to fully investigate, as scammers often reside in different cities and countries, however, it is still important for victims to report incidents to police so crime trends can be tracked, others can be warned and so that police can help connect victims with necessary supports.
Common red flags of mass-marketing scams include:
- Misspelled email addresses, websites, links or spelling errors in the messages themselves
- Suspicious attachments or links
- Urgent requests with threats of legal action or physical harm if demands are not followed
- Payment requested in the form of pre-paid gift cards, wire money transfers or other forms of non-secure payment
- Requests of personal or financial information
The Calgary Police Service encourages anyone who has suffered a financial loss as a result of fraud to report it to police by calling the non-emergency number at 403-266-1234.
If you have received a fraudulent text message, email or phone call but have not sustained a financial loss, please report it to the Canadian Anti Fraud Centre.
Tips can also be submitted anonymously to Crime Stoppers through any of the following methods:
APP: P3 Tips