Police warn of new mass-marketing extortion scam

Photo by Jefferson Santos

Extortion scams have become more popular in the advent of the digital age, but Calgary Police are warning of a particularly new and frightening scam that’s targeted local citizens.

In a social media post in August, the Calgary Police describe a scam of particular note that’s been reported to authorities by roughly two dozen individuals at time of reporting.

“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,” the post stated. “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.”

According to the authorities, three victims of this extortion scam have lost a combined total of $4,000 to the perpetrators.

“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,” said 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.”

The police stated it is difficult to follow up on many of these cases as scammers can reside in other locations, ranging from different cities to completely different continents. However, they still ask that individuals report their encounters with fraudsters as it assists with tracking and warning others when it comes to new and emergent scams.

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.

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:

TALK: 1-800-222-8477

TYPE: www.calgarycrimestoppers.org