Police in Alberta’s largest city are turning to a global blockchain data platform to help combat cryptocurrency crimes.
Calgary police announced a partnership Wednesday with Chainalysis, a U.S.-based company that provides data, software and research services to government agencies, financial institutions, cybersecurity companies and now law enforcement.
The result is the creation of the Western Canada Cryptocurrency Investigations Centre, which is to serve as a hub for police and the private sector to learn about emerging cryptocurrency and cybercrime trends.
Calgary police are also creating a new unit dedicated to cryptocurrency and blockchain-related investigations.
Police Chief Mark Neufeld said fighting cyber crime requires collaboration between law enforcement and other expert industries.
He said officers want to be able to support someone who loses cryptocurrency the same way they would help a senior who was robbed after taking money out of a bank machine.
“We would move heaven and earth to solve that crime for that senior, but if that same person clicks on the wrong link on an email and has thousands of dollars stolen from them, we need to be able to move heaven and earth in the very same way and release those digital hounds in the digital world to get that money back,” Neufeld said.
Cybercrimes, particularly cryptocurrency scams, can be difficult for police to fully investigate due to several factors, such as various international locations and jurisdictions, sophisticated criminal techniques and quickly advancing technology, the force said.
Calgary police received reports of $13.9 million in losses to cryptocurrency-related crimes last year and an additional $3.2 million so far this year. Neufeld said that tends to be less than one would expect in a city of 1.4 million people.
“That’s because a lot of people think, and a lot of individuals and businesses feel, ‘well, there’s not a lot that can be done.’”
Neufeld said there is also a large immigrant population in Calgary that sends money abroad, which makes them “potentially open to being defrauded”
Gurvais Grigg, a retired FBI agent who is the public sector chief technology officer for Chainalysis, said Canada moved from 26th to 22nd worldwide last year on adopting cryptocurrencies.
He said Canada has experienced a 213 per cent increase in cryptocurrency usage since 2019, and the potential for scams is growing.
“We see an explosive increase in the illicit use of crypto involving scams and other ways that are devastating average Canadians,” said Grigg.
“There are thousands of these scams out there that are draining people’s retirements and savings. We saw that over $41.7 million was garnered through activity here.”