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‘I automatically knew’: White Rock shop owner saves senior from Bitcoin scam

Scammers posed as Microsoft officials who needed money through Bitcoin for investigation
A senior was saved from losing money to a crypto scam after the quick action from a convenience store owner in White Rock. (Stock file photo)

A senior was saved from losing money to a crypto scam thanks to quick action by a convenience store owner in White Rock.

An older gentleman walked into the Red Rooster Food Store while on the phone on Tuesday (June 5), as he walked over to the Bitcoin machine in the back of the shop.

“He didn’t know what to do so I asked him ‘Is there anything I can help you with?’ and he’s on the phone with another gentleman. He’s directing him, but he had no idea what to do,” store owner Priya Badesha shared with Peace Arch News.

She walked over to the man to ask if he needed help, to which he replied “yes.” For Badesha, the signs were clear that this situation was likely one of an unknowing individual, possibly a scam.

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“I said, ‘Sir, a lot of people get scammed, so do you know who you’re sending the money to?’ And the guy on the phone goes ‘Tell her I’m your financial advisor’… it didn’t seem like it was legit,” Badesha recalled, adding that the phone was not on speaker but the volume was loud enough that she could decipher the words on the other line.

“I explained to him that a lot of people get scammed if you don’t know what you’re doing. He had a print-out of the ID scan you need to put the money in, so he didn’t have the digital wallet either. It looks like they emailed it to him or something so he printed it out to scan it, but he had no clue what to do.

“He didn’t know how the (machine) works, he didn’t know to put his phone number in to get a confirmation back, so at that point, I automatically knew. I told him, ‘I can help, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to put the money in,’” but he did not seem receptive, she added.

The store owner went back to register and called the non-emergency police line as the situation still did not feel right to her. She then pretended to do other tasks as the man was waiting for her help until police arrived.

“The gentleman on the phone hung up immediately after the officer asked ‘Do you want to hand over the phone and I can talk to him,’” Badesha said.

Const. Chantal Sears from White Rock RCMP said the man was contacted through email by scammers claiming they were from Microsoft. The individuals convinced the man that his email account was “compromised” and Microsoft needed a sum of money sent through Bitcoin to help the investigation, Sears added.

“We want to remind the public, especially seniors who are preyed upon by these heartless criminals, to hang up and slow down. The scammers will try and confuse you with a sense of urgency for having to withdraw your money. If you have been told you are helping us or the bank with an investigation, that is not true.”

The individual from Tuesday was saved from “losing his savings.”

Badesha said this incident was not the first time a senior has come into the shop to use the Bitcoin machine, frantic while on a call.

A few weeks back, another senior man was getting frustrated at the machine as a voice on the other end of the line was explaining how to operate the machine. She approached the man and, again, informed him of potential scams that target seniors.

“The guy on the phone heard me say that. He told the guy to leave the store immediately. He said, ‘I don’t want you there for another second, I don’t want you talking to this girl, just get out, leave.’”

“I tried to stop him, like ‘Sir, think about it. I’m not getting anything out of it, but this guy is taking your money so you (should) reconsider. Don’t go anywhere,’ but the thing is, they just don’t let you put the phone down.”

As the Bitcoin machine has been in the store for quite some time, Badesha said she and the staff have become informed on signs to look for in the case of a potential scam.

“You can just tell by their body language. A lot of people do use the machine and do understand what Bitcoin is, but personally, I don’t believe in Bitcoin and I would never buy it myself, but I’m always looking out for the elderly,” she stressed.

“They usually come in while on the phone and try to operate it with one hand, so they get really frustrated. I try to help, but I’m conflicted because I don’t want to help. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re obviously getting scammed.”

Badesha hopes that this incident would encourage everyone to become informed on signs of a potential scam, especially for families to educate seniors and others who may be more susceptible.

“We encourage the public to call us for any suspicious activity. We would rather be called, attend and determine the situation is legitimate as opposed to not being called. If your intuition is telling you something is not right, please call us,” Sears said.

White Rock RCMP also encourage the city's older adults to become members of Kent Street Activity Centre's Seniors Computer Club, by calling 604-541-2231.

Sobia Moman

About the Author: Sobia Moman

Sobia Moman is a news and features reporter with the Peace Arch News.
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