The victims and police are calling on Western Union to do more to protect people from the fraudsters, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported Monday.
The network says the scam involves "mystery shopper jobs" posted on the Internet under the name of a fake company. Those lured into the "jobs" are told they will be testing the security of Western Union's money transfer system but wind up losing thousands of dollars of their own money.
Among the victims were Paramit Singh of Mississauga, Ontario, and Sandra Bohnert of Squamish, British Columbia, who thought they were taking part-time jobs to earn a little extra cash.
"I was aware of it that scams could happen, but they played quite well," Singh said. "It doesn't sound like a scam and there is a job to be done."
Bohnert said the come-on was "so professional."
"They name big corporations that they work for and that they want you to work for, which is a total lie," Bohnert said.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Center says the scam has cost people at least $1.5 million in the past two years, and police say the total likely is much higher.
"We believe there are a lot of suspects out there. In my experience, in our investigations, there are people or suspects who do this as a living," said Toronto police Detective Alan Spratt.
"I have been involved in investigations where the agent didn't follow Western Union's policies. For example, during the execution of one search warrant we found that one particular individual didn't ask for ID from anyone," said Spratt.
The scam victims and police are calling on Western Union to do more to tighten its money transfer practices.
Western Union says it takes various security measures to ward off scammers.
"I can assure you that preventing fraud is one of Western Union's top priorities," spokeswoman Anna Alejo told the CBC.
"We specifically warn consumers not to use our services as occurred in the cases you reference. Western Union is not intended for use when sending money to people the consumer has not met in person."