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Vancouver Island senior loses $100,000 to cryptocurrency investment scam

Nanaimo man on the edge of bankruptcy after scammer empties accounts, maxes out credit card
Robert Dunning, of Nanaimo, said he’s on the verge of bankruptcy after he became the victim of an online cryptocurrency investment scam. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

A Nanaimo senior says he is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy after losing nearly $100,000 to a cryptocurrency scam.

Robert Dunning, a 74-year-old retired electrician, said his chequing, savings, line of credit and credit card accounts were cleaned out over a two-week period this fall after he set up online banking and invested $250 in Bitcoin.

“I wanted to try this out, so I put in the minimum amount of money, which I recall was about $250 and I wanted to just leave that there and see what happened,” Dunning said.

The next day he received a phone call from someone claiming to be a trader with an online brokerage who said he could help Dunning get started.

“I had to show a photo of my driver’s licence and this person already had my e-mail and my phone number,” Dunning said. “He said you’re going to have to have online banking for this to work.”

Dunning activated his online banking and was contacted the next day.

“He phoned … and said, ‘OK now you can get started and you’ve already made a profit from that original investment and now you need to invest more money.’ I said ‘no, I don’t want to invest any more money, I just want to see what happens with this first,’” Dunning said.

At one point, he said, the caller took control of his computer remotely and Dunning watched as the caller browsed through his accounts during the set-up procedure, assuring him that everything looked good to proceed with trading.

“But unknown to me, he had access to my online banking through my computer and he withdrew money out of my accounts and I don’t know what he did with it. It’s gone,” Dunning said.

The trader called every weekday to say Dunning was making “amazing profits” on his investments. Dunning wondered how that could be, but didn’t know money was being moved from accounts for almost two full weeks during which time he said he received no warnings from his bank.

“The way I found out I had no money left I was at the grocery store and my card was denied. So I went straight to the bank and the teller said … there’s less than $1 in your account,” he said.

READ ALSO: British Columbians have lost $3.5M to cryptocurrency scams so far in 2021

All told, Dunning said about $101,000 was stolen, which included $30,000 from his line of credit, about $9,000 from his chequing account, $37,000 from his savings account and $25,000 on his credit card. Dunning said BMO conducted an investigation into the theft and concluded it could not take any responsibility.

“On the very last day that money was being withdrawn, I got a warning on my phone that said MasterCard alert, but nothing before that…”Dunning said. “I went into the bank to find out what has happened and the young bank manager, she said to me, we can’t help you with this. You must have assisted this person to get into your online banking, so because of that we can’t help you.”

Nanaimo RCMP confirmed Dunning filed a complaint to police about the scam.

“There’s very little we can do,” said Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman. “We know that once Bitcoin is purchased it’s basically an invisible currency transaction and it is far beyond what we are capable of tracking. If we can take anything from this is there are tell-tale characteristics that individual must be aware of, whether it’s Bitcoin or the grandfather scam or the CRA scam, is that the individual he entered into a transaction with was asking for more and more money. Right there is the red flag. That’s where individuals must stop.”

Dunning said it’s difficult to recover from such a financial hit at his age and he still hopes his bank will do something to cover his losses.

“We all know they’re insured for these things and I’m not expecting to get back my savings, but I didn’t expect to be stuck…” he said. “I’m just about forced in to bankruptcy. It’s pretty close.”

To learn more or to report online fraud, visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at

READ ALSO: Nanaimo victims scammed out of cash by online con artists

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Chris Bush

About the Author: Chris Bush

As a photographer/reporter with the Nanaimo News Bulletin since 1998.
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