Calgary police are warning consumers of a new twist on an often-reported scam involving the payment of fake debts with iTunes gift cards. Police said it’s cost local victims more than $132,000 so far this summer.
Officers said 44 Calgary victims lost more than $140,000 in Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) scams between June 1 and July 21—with 96 per cent of victims affected by the new tactic.
Instead of being asked to transfer money like in past scams, police said victims are directed to buy large quantities of iTunes (or other) gift cards and give the activation codes. Police said scammers then sell the codes on the black market.
Police provided the below infographic of how the scam works (story continues below):
Victims may be told they’ll be arrested or face deportation if they don’t comply. Scammers may also say the victim is being watched or threaten the victim or their family with violence.
“In one recent case, a victim lost $19,700 to this scam ($15,700 worth of iTunes gift cards and $4,000 worth of Best Buy gift cards),” police said Wednesday.
“The scammer made multiple phone calls to the victim, threatening them with extreme court fees if the fines were not paid immediately. Unfortunately, the victim contacted police after they had already lost their money.”
Police provided the following reminders to consumers:
- The CRA or CIC will never ask for payment via iTunes cards, other gift cards or prepaid credit cards.
- If you are contacted and told you owe money, always confirm with CRA or CIC directly. Look up the official numbers online and do not use the numbers provided to you by the potential scammer.
- Do not feel pressure to provide any money until you’ve determined if the debt is real. Take your time to talk to trusted friends and family. Legitimate requests will not be that urgent.
- Always report it to police. If you have lost money, call 403-266-1234. If you received a phone call or email that you believe to be a scam but have not lost money, you can report it online at www.calgarypolice.ca
- If your workplace sells gift cards be on the lookout for potential victims and inform them about this scam. Victims may seem very stressed and agitated, be on the phone and purchasing a large amount of gift cards.