An increase in gift card related fraud is prompting the Lethbridge Police Service to issue a warning. The Economic Crimes Unit has received a half dozen complaints from local victims who bought gift cards as part of a scam. Police say over $500,000 has been allegedly taken from victims so far this year from various scams. In addition, a total of $50,000 has also been lost to cryptocurrency scams. Last year, around $200,000 was lost. Most scams come through email or through the phone where fraudsters pretend to be from a bank or government agency. Staff from the Economic Crimes Unit say that seniors are primarily targeted.
“The seniors who have gone through life have thousands of dollars that are at their disposal, and sometimes fall victim to somebody that might be very convincing over the phone or through email. Or sometimes just a pop up that says you have a virus. Somebody that might not be tech savvy that just falls for a particular scam. Not everybody falls for the same scam, they implement so many of them that they just need to find one person that’s willing to fall for that,” says Yoan Bernatchez, a Constable with the Economic Crimes Unit within the LPS.
The Economic Crimes Unit has tips to avoid being scammed:
- Government agencies like the Canada Revenue Agency, Service Canada, police or border services will not ask for you to pay anything with gift cards or cryptocurrency, nor will they ask for financial information.
- If contacted by someone claiming to be from a law enforcement agency, it should be noted they will already have your contact information. Most scammers will attempt to have the victim immediately confirm their identity, which provides valuable information they can use and sell later on. Don’t provide your personal or banking information. When in doubt, hang up and call your local police number to verify if someone just called.
- Don’t click on any links within an email from unfamiliar senders. Scammer emails can look identical to that of real businesses like Amazon, PayPal, Canada Post, or the CRA. They normally advise to click on a link, ask you to confirm some personal information, require payment, or advise of a problem that is urgent. To prevent this, go to the known website, use an application you already have installed and have verified to be legitimate, or attend the business in person to confirm there is a problem.
If you have been the victim of a scam and have lost money you can report it by calling the LPS complaint line at 403-328-4444.