Edmonton couple warns others after falling victim to ‘fat finger’ phone scam

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An Edmonton couple is out $175, and say it could have been thousands of dollars, after falling victim to what’s known as the fat finger scam. Sharon and Yves Baril are sharing their story in hopes of warning others.

On Monday afternoon, Sharon, 64, called the customer service number on the back of her Scotiabank bank card in hopes of getting information about her account balance.

The person on the other end of the line told her she had won a cruise to Bermuda for being a loyal bank customer; Yves, 71, has held the account since he was 18.

“Somebody answers saying, ‘Congratulations, you just won a cruise.’ All fancy and everything,” Sharon said. “They made it sound so good.”

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The person told them that they would have to pay for their own flights to Florida, along with $130 for a hotel room and food before boarding the cruise. But after that, everything would be paid for.

“I thought, ‘Well maybe since it’s through the bank number, I can trust these guys.'”

“They sound so convincing,” Yves added.

Sharon gave the person her bank card number and the number on the back of her card. But then, the person on the other end of the phone continued to sweeten “the deal.” They said for an extra $1,200 they could stay for another two weeks.

“When they said 1,200 bucks I said, ‘No, no, no,'” Yves said. “I shook my head. I told my wife, ‘Hang up, it’s a scam.'”

The couple said they asked their son to help them check their bank balance online, but within minutes of hanging up the phone, $175 was gone. Yves immediately went to the bank where he was told he had fallen victim to a scam.

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“They said, ‘No, there’s no promotion for that,'” Yves explained.

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“They told me I wasn’t the only one. I go to the same girl all the time, the teller, and she said I’m not the only one, she said it’s been going on a couple days now.”

The scam is referred to as “fat finger dialing.” Scammers are buying up phone numbers similar to the customer support lines of major companies in hopes of fooling customers who have misdialled, according to the Better Business Bureau.

The scammer on the other end of the line offers free giveaways, such as prizes and gift cards. Because the customer has dialled the number themselves, they assume the gift offer must be the real deal so they stay on the line to speak to the representative.

The BBB said scammers will often ask for personal information such as your name, address and banking or credit card information in order to process the gift. Scammers are impersonating a wide range of organizations from banking and credit institution, to the American Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to Walmart.

Watch below: The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers about some of the top scams making the rounds this fall. 

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BBB cautions consumers about top scams to be wary of this fall season

Seanna Lawrence, president and CEO of the BBB in central and northern Alberta, said the scam has been prevalent in North America for the past couple of years. While her BBB location hasn’t received any recent local reports of the scam, she said it isn’t uncommon.

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If people suspect the offer is too good to be true, Lawrence encourages them to hang up the phone. If it’s a legitimate offer, they can always call back. In addition, she said to keep an ear out for offers that are more than just nominal rewards.

“A cruise is a great example because that is something that’s exorbitant,” she said. “Or if there’s a 50 per cent discount, some kind of massive discount or reward, that’s the best indicator that you should do some further research.”

Lawrence said companies that are being targeted will often have alerts posted on their websites. She said people should never give out their credit card or banking information because their institution would already have that information.

Scotiabank would not say if the bank has been hit by this particular scam recently or how many people may have been affected by the scam.

“The number and sophistication of phishing and fraud attempts have increased globally,” Scotiabank spokesperson Brynne Moore said in a statement.

“The safety and security of our customers and their accounts are a top priority for the bank. No bank is immune to these threats and both the customer and the bank have responsibilities to protect their information. We encourage our customers to report any suspicious activity immediately to the bank, as well as to the appropriate authorities.”

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Sharon said she feels like “a dummy” for giving out her banking information, but wanted to share her story in hopes of warning others.

The Barils also reported the incident to the Edmonton Police Service’s fraud unit. The couple said their bank account will be cancelled and they will be issued a new card.

People who fall victim to fraud are asked to report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

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