The Financial and Consumer Services Commission (FCNB) is warning the public about a cryptocurrency scam that has already targeted 27 New Brunswickers who lost a total of $23,168.
The scam prompted several securities regulatory authorities across the country to issue an investor alert on Thursday warning the public about GoldberryCo, which is operating through the websites goldberryco.com and goldbrco.com, and is not registered to sell investments in Canada.
GoldberryCo is encouraging people to invest through social media, news articles and spoofed websites of legitimate companies, including well-known Canadian media, and by using the names of journalists and celebrities to endorse its crypto-trading platform. Once a potential investor visits its platform and/or responds to a fictitious news article by clicking on a link and providing their contact details, they are encouraged to register and then are contacted by “an account manager” to set up a free account. The victims are then pressured to deposit a minimum amount of money ($250) with the assurance they can withdraw their funds at any time. In some cases, investors are able to withdraw a portion of their funds as a way to build trust and entice them to invest more. But any requests to withdraw all funds fail, and the fraudsters cease communication.
An ongoing investigation into cryptocurrency fraud by the Manitoba Securities Commission uncovered a list of possible fraud victims to this scam across the country. FCNB proactively reached many of the 27 New Brunswick residents on this list to determine if they were in fact victims of fraud, and to discourage them from investing any more money.
“The scam targeted people of all ages, professions and from around our province,” said Marissa Sollows, Director of Communications and Public Affairs at FCNB. “Victims ranged from their forties into their eighties, and they lost anywhere from $250 to more than $12,000. There was no typical victim.”
It’s just the latest in a string of purported crypto companies that have prompted FCNB to issue alerts on its website.
Since January 1, FCNB has issued alerts on 13 companies claiming to provide online cryptocurrency trading services to New Brunswickers. Last year, it issued alerts on 30 companies. None of these companies were registered in New Brunswick to deal or advise in securities.
“While initial data for 2022 suggested that New Brunswickers lost fewer dollars to fraud last year, which was encouraging, it’s always difficult to use these numbers as a predictor of future behaviour,” Sollows said. “Crypto scams are becoming more prevalent around the world, and the money lost to these scammers is staggering and, in most cases, permanent.”
“One of the first steps New Brunswickers can do to protect themselves from investment scams is to check the registration of the individual and the company trying to sell them the investment before they part with their money,” Sollows said.
New Brunswickers can do so by visiting FCNB.ca for a link to the National Registration Search Tool. They can also check FCNB’s list of alerts and caution list to make sure the name of the company is not on that list.
“If the individual or company you are talking to is not registered with FCNB, it is a major red flag of fraud. All individuals and companies selling investments in Canada must be registered.”
Any New Brunswicker who believes they were a victim of the GoldberryCo scam or any other investment scam should contact FCNB at 1-866-933-2222 or through its website.
FCNB strongly encourages New Brunswick investors to:
- Check the National Registration Search to ensure the individual or firm selling an investment is registered in New Brunswick.
- Check FCNB’s alerts, the CSA Investor Alerts, Disciplined List and Cease Trade Orders to ensure the individual or firm selling the investment opportunity isn’t considered an investor risk, or the subject of disciplinary or enforcement actions.
- Sign up for email notifications to receive alerts about consumer and investor fraud.
- Be wary of any unsolicited offer to help you recover lost funds. Fraudsters often sell victims’ information to other scam artists who then offer to help the victim recover their lost funds, for a fee.
- Familiarize themselves with the red flags of fraud by visiting fcnb.ca.
- Not provide remote access to your phone, tablet or computer to strangers.
- Ignore promises of “guaranteed” high returns with little or no risk. Generally, the higher the return, the higher the level of risk.
- Be wary if you are pressured to make a decision quickly. Fraudsters exploit fears of missing out on an “exclusive opportunity.”
Audio file of Marissa Sollows, director of communications and public affairs, FCNB
FCNB has the mandate to provide regulatory services that protect the public interest, enhance public confidence and promote understanding of the regulated sectors through educational programs. It is responsible for the administration and enforcement of provincial legislation regulating mortgage brokers, payday lenders, real estate, securities, insurance, pensions, credit unions, trust and loan companies, cooperatives, and a wide range of other consumer legislation. It is an independent Crown corporation funded by the regulatory fees and assessments paid by the regulated sectors. Online educational tools and resources are available at www.fcnb.ca.