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Social media and Kijiji fraud cases over stolen property on the rise: Calgary police

Surveillance video appears to show the brazen theft of an ATV and trailer from a Calgary home last week. Grant Wallace

Surveillance video appears to show an unknown truck backing onto Grant Wallace’s Calgary property, the driver cutting chains, hooking up a trailer, and driving away with Wallace’s Polaris side-by-side ATV.

Following the theft of his ATV and trailer — worth thousands and essential to his business — on May 15, Wallace took to the Internet, posting the video on Facebook and an ad on Kijiji, hoping to track down the thief.

In both online posts, Wallace offered a reward for the return of his ATV — $2,000, if it was in working condition. He also offered another $500 if someone could identify the culprit.

Those reward offers, Wallace thinks, were bait for people looking to take advantage of the situation.

READ MORE: Thieves demand ransom for Calgary couple’s stolen trailer

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Wallace said a man phoned his cellphone on May 19, but he was camping in an out-of-service area. His voicemail directs callers to the office of the small business he owns and runs, Hunter Wallace Surveys Ltd., which is where the alleged scammer called next.

WATCH: Surveillance video appears to show the theft of Grant Wallace’s ATV and trailer.

Click to play video: 'Surveillance video appears to show theft of ATV, trailer from Calgary home' Surveillance video appears to show theft of ATV, trailer from Calgary home
Surveillance video appears to show theft of ATV, trailer from Calgary home – May 27, 2017

It was then that the scammer took advantage of his 78-year-old business partner, Bill Hunter.

“His story was that be bought the ATV off a guy for $500, and then he noticed on Kijiji that it was stolen and he just wanted the $500 that be paid for it back,” Wallace told Global News in a phone interview Saturday.

“He said, ‘Send $250 to show that you’re serious and then we’ll have an arranged meeting spot and I’ll bring the trailer and the ATV and you can send me the other $250.'”

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Hunter e-transferred the unknown caller the first $250 and arranged to meet him to retrieve the stolen ATV. When Hunter arrived at the location, the caller told him he was running late and in a rush, that he’d be there soon and Hunter should send the rest of the $500. He did, but the caller never showed up.

“It all happened in the span of about two hours,” Wallace said.

READ MORE: Family of Edmonton man defrauded of nearly $330K speaks out

Wallace got another call Tuesday from a man stating he had information about the ATV, and wanted the reward. This time, Wallace was more vigilant.

“The thing that immediately threw me off was that he also mentioned that he knew that my co-worker had gotten taken for $500, which was not common knowledge,” Wallace said.

Wallace told the caller he believed he was the man responsible for defrauding his colleague. When he said the caller could give him the information, but there would be no reward, the caller hung up.

Similar fraud cases on the rise in Calgary

According to the Calgary Police Service (CPS), there have been an “increase in the number of frauds” involving someone posting on Facebook or Kijiji offering a reward for their stolen or missing property.

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“Then that individual is contacted by a fraud artist who claims to have information about the stolen property or missing property, when in fact they don’t, and their sole purpose is just to essentially fraudulently get that reward money,” said CPS Const. Paul Teworte.

Teworte called the increase in the number of cyber fraud cases “concerning,” and said the police service is looking into the trend.

“We have a cyber-crime investigative team, and a support team that looks into these cases, and a number of officers,” he said.

Teworte said anyone who has property stolen should immediately report it to police, and not engage with fraudsters demanding a ransom.

“We strongly encourage people to not pay any kind of ransom. Again, call us right away,” he said.

“Don’t pay anything … especially where there is a lack of proof for the property — there’s no photo, the person isn’t willing to get police involved, who claims to have the stolen or missing property — these are red flags.”

READ MORE: A warning to Calgary hockey groups after nearly $100K stolen in email scam

Wallace initially reported the theft to the RCMP, who said it was a CPS matter due to the fact that it happened in Calgary.

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Wallace has since been in contact with Calgary police, who told him they’re doing what they can to track down the thief and fraudster, including attempting to access information on the bank account the e-transfers were deposited into, and phone numbers.

He also said he’s gotten several tips from the public on who may have his trailer and ATV, including one he believes was another fraudster looking to take his money.

“It’s a little disappointing to be honest, that these types of people exist, that prey on victims,” Wallace said, adding he’s had ATVs stolen in the past, despite using a wide range of security measures for his property.

“It seems like every security measure I take, if a thief is determined enough they’ll get it, you know … it seems like they’ll go to no end.”

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