There have been 22 reports in the past six weeks to Calgary police about a new form of mass-marketing fraud believed to be run by international fraudsters targeting a wide variety of victims across the globe. Based on reports received so far, three victims have lost a combined total of $4,000.

Police said that victims receive an unsolicited text message from an international number with the scammer claiming the victim owes between $500 - $8,000 for using personal services.

"If payment is not received, the scammer proceeds to send the victim graphic and violent photos, in an effort to intimidate victims into sending payment, along with threats that they or their family may be targeted or harmed."

In most cases reported to the Calgary Police Service, the fraudster uses the name “Edgar Ortega VALDEZ” along with the phone number 562-579-8694.

“Mass-marketing fraud is a crime that uses low or no-cost mass-marketing tools with a goal of defrauding the victims with a promise, story or threat,” says Staff Sergeant Geoff Gawlinski of the Calgary Police Service Economic Crimes Unit. “As technology advances, so do the tactics of fraudsters, as they are able to cast a wide net to reach people around the world in hopes of capitalizing on the fear and emotions of potential victims.”

Common red flags of mass-marketing scams include misspelled email addresses, websites, links or spelling errors in the messages themselves, suspicious attachments or links, urgent requests with threats of legal action or physical harm if demands are not followed, as well as payment requested in the form of pre-paid gift cards, wire money transfers or other forms of non-secure payment

Because online extortion scams can be difficult to fully investigate, as scammers often reside in different cities and countries, however, it is still important for victims to report incidents to police so crime trends can be tracked, others can be warned and so that police can help connect victims with necessary supports.

The Calgary Police Service encourages anyone who has suffered a financial loss as a result of fraud to report it to the police by calling the non-emergency number.

"If you have received a fraudulent text message, email or phone call but have not sustained a financial loss, please report it to the Canadian Anti Fraud Centre."

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