The 27-year-old master’s student, newly arrived in Canada, received a call on October 20 from someone claiming someone had stolen her account Amazon to make online purchases and open bank accounts in different countries.
Parisa Ghanbari doesn’t buy from this merchant site, but when the person on the phone tells her her name is on a criminal list, she panics and has no choice but to comply, she says.
His interlocutor urges him to act immediately to remove his name from the list. Meanwhile, she receives another call from someone posing as a federal agent. Parisa Ghanbari searches the internet for the caller and comes across a now-defunct, official-looking website that lists the caller’s name and phone number.
Over the phone, the person asks her to make two cash withdrawals from her bank account and deposit the money into a bitcoin ATM located in a downtown store, for what she tells her verification and protection purposes. The man also allegedly asked her not to tell anyone about the current transaction.
Overwhelmed by fear
I know it makes no senseShe recognizes the young student who says she was so paralyzed at the time that she couldn’t believe in anything, especially as she adds:
I honestly don’t know how it works in this country.
After depositing, the caller assured her that everything was fine and that she would receive her money soon. A few hours later, after discussing the incident with a relative, she realizes that she was cheated out of $10,900, an amount intended to cover her sophomore tuition.
Parisa Ghanbari says she suspected something was wrong with the deal and cried at the transaction, but says it was fear that kept her from speaking out. She also says she’s aware of certain types of scams like phishing, but points out that she’s never heard of scammers claiming to be government officials and has never seen a Bitcoin ATM.
Fraud increased by 130% in the country
The young student says she reported her mishap to the police but was told there was nothing they could do because she had already deposited the money and the scammers were abroad. Parisa Ghanbari says she also reported the scam to Concordia, the university where she studies, and the latter gave her a staggered payment of her tuition and discussed the possibility of giving her a scholarship.
She also says the school sent a fraud warning email to its students. As a foreign student unfamiliar with the systems in Canada, Parisa Ghanbari would like universities to educate their students on common scam tactics.
Concordia Student Association (CSA) President Navleen Kaur said the student association plans to investigate the matter. A spokesman for Concordia University said the institution has increased communication with students on how to protect themselves from fraud in various situations.
Fraudulent activity is difficult to trace, but statistics from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center suggest it is on the rise. The center said it received more than 100,000 fraud reports last year, a 130% increase from 2020. From January to the end of September this year, more than 43,000 victims lost $362.7 million due to fraud.
With information from Madeleine Cummings