'A stupidly large sum of money': UW student loses nearly $100K in scam
Published Tuesday, March 30, 2021 5:09PM EDT Last Updated Tuesday, March 30, 2021 6:59PM EDT
KITCHENER -- The victim in a six-figure scam is hoping to raise awareness so others don’t get conned into losing nearly $100,000 like he did.
“A stupidly large sum of money that I shouldn't have sent, “ said Aaron Yau.
Yau is originally from Vancouver and is now a second-year University of Waterloo student studying optometry.
According to Yau, someone who said they were from a delivery service contacted him about a package in his name. The person on the phone claimed customs in China was holding the package because it contained contraband materials.
“He named my passport number, my home address, my phone number and my full name,” Yau said.
Yau said he also believed the police were involved.He received photos of a badge and what looked like legitimate documents. He claimed they also called him on video chat.
“He dressed up as a police officer,” Yau said. “And it looked like the guy in the badge.”
Yau was worried his name would be associated with criminal activity if he didn't help in the police investigation.
“I was panicking the whole time for the four-and-a-half months that I was just going to go to jail,” said Yau.
For months, the fraudsters worked hard to gain his trust. Yau said they told him he needed him to wire transfer money to prove it was not laundered and to test his line of credit.
He was told to buy a new cell phone. Waterloo regional police call that a common tactic fraudsters use.
“Apple for example uses software that is also heavily encrypted and makes it more difficult for police to get information from it,” said Det. Const. Jason Murray.
Waterloo regional police are investigating and the International Criminal Police Organization has been alerted.
Police said it is difficult to recover the money in scams like this.
“Once the funds leave Canada it becomes very difficult for law-enforcement to pursue those funds,” said Murray.
Yau started an online fundraising campaign and is grateful for the community coming together to help him.
He's unsure he will be able to afford tuition in the fall.
A bulletin from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre warned of an extortion scam targeting Asian communities in Canada.
They said people should be aware of calls from unfamiliar Chinese speakers or anyone asking to send money to bank accounts in China or Hong Kong.
People shouldn't provide any personal information, like account numbers or social insurance numbers, over the phone.
A tool kit from the centre said identity theft, investment, job and merchandise frauds are most common in young adults between 16 and 34.
The tool kit said people should be careful about what information they share online. Officials also encourage people to use credit cards when shopping online, since most companies will offer fraud protection.
Anyone who has fallen victim to a fraud should contact law enforcement or use the Fraud Reporting System.
The full toolkit is available below: