Asian community targeted in scam that cheated man out of $100K in Mississauga

By

Published May 14, 2024 at 5:13 pm

Phone scam targets Mississauga victims.

Mississauga and Brampton’s Asian communities are being alerted by police to an elaborate intimidation and impersonation scam carried out both by phone and in person after a man was bilked out of $97,000 by someone who claimed to be a Chinese customs official.

Peel Regional Police said in a news release today they’re currently running “a number of active, ongoing investigations” into the fraudulent schemes in which culprits also pose as officials with the Chinese consulate, as Interpol agents and as members of various other police agencies.

In all cases, according to investigators, the scam starts with a phone call and, if necessary, is followed by an in-person visit to the victim.

Victims receive “threatening and intimidating phone calls demanding funds (with the callers) claiming to be the police, customs, Interpol and the Chinese consulate,” police said in their news release.

Police said that after a lengthy investigation, a Toronto man was arrested and charged in April in connection with a scheme that cheated a 38-year-old Mississauga man out of $97,000 over a period of several months in 2022.

The victim, who was first contacted on July 15, 2022 by a man on the phone pretending to be a Shanghai customs officer, wound up wiring money on 15 separate occasions to a Hong Kong account over the course of a few months.

During the first phone call, police allege the caller told the victim he “was suspected of committing a fraud offence in China and was required to return his funds to China for further investigation into their legitimacy.

“The victim was threatened with deportation back to China to face repercussions if he did not comply and was also promised the return of all funds at the completion of the investigation,” police said.

After the first nine wire transfers, the Mississauga man became suspicious “and requested to see an official in person before he would send any more funds,” investigators said.

On Aug. 31, 2022, a man showed up at the victim’s Mississauga home and presented identification showing him to purportedly be an executive staff member of Interpol, with the People’s Republic of China.

The man “served the victim with a Shanghai Public Security Bureau Incident Receipt and retrieved $500 cash from the victim,” police said. “After this visit, the victim sent another six wire transfers, depleting the remainder of his funds.”

Zhi Yong Wu, 57, of Toronto, was arrested on April 17 and charged with fraud over $5,000 and possession of property obtained by crime.

He’ll appear in Brampton court at a later date, police said.

Police said incidents of extortion in Mississauga and Brampton, and across the country, are on the rise.

Canadian fraud investigators added it’s a criminal venture that can bring in a lot of money for the culprits.

“With $12.5 million in overall reported losses in 2023, extortion fraud remains a persistent threat to Canadians. These frauds play on the emotions of victims to instill fear and anxiety to get victims to send money,” said Jeff Thomson, a spokesperson for the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

The anti-fraud group “has received reports from victims across our country and wants to remind Canadians to stay vigilant and report any threatening calls they get claiming to be Shanghai Police, Beijing Police, Interpol or any other government or police agency,” he added.

Peel police, meanwhile, suggest the following tips to avoid becoming a victim:

  • do your research. If you’re receiving a call from someone claiming to work for the government, research the number and contact them yourself to inquire about the legitimacy of the phone call
  • do not give out personal information over the phone
  • do not be afraid to say no. Don’t allow someone to use threatening language to intimidate you

Anyone with information on such scams is asked to contact the Peel police Fraud Bureau at 905-453–2121, ext. 3335, or call Peel Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.

insauga's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising