Winnipeg man hopes for money back after losing hundreds from gift card scam

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg man loses hundreds from gift card scam' Winnipeg man loses hundreds from gift card scam
Global's Marney Blunt reports on a Winnipeg man who is sounding the alarm about gift card fraud after buying cards that turned out to be empty over the holiday season – Jan 3, 2020

A Winnipeg man is sounding the alarm about gift card fraud after the holiday season.

Livio, who didn’t want to use his last name, said he bought four $100 Petro Canada gift cards for his family on Christmas.

But when one of his sons went to use the gift card on Dec. 27, it had been completely drained of funds. When they checked the other cards, he said, two others also had a zero balance.

“I was kind of just stunned, it happened so quickly,” he said.

When they checked online, two of the gift cards were found to have been used in Thornhill, Ont., he said.

READ MORE: As holidays near, Ottawa woman warns of gift card scams after gas money swiped

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He reported it to Petro Canada, who are currently investigating. But Livio says he has to prove he didn’t spend the value of the cards — something he calls a major inconvenience.

“[Petro Canada] told us they’ll take about eight to 14 days to investigate it, and that’s not okay with me because it’s a defective product. It’s defective and you want your money back, you don’t want these kinds of delays,” he said.

“So they’re asking me to prove that I didn’t spend money on these cards…. I don’t live in Thornhill, Ontario, I live in Winnipeg.”

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In an emailed statement to Global News, Petro Canada said they investigate any report of fraud and if it is confirmed, they will reimburse the customer in full.

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But for now, Livio is out a few hundred bucks, and says he won’t be purchasing a gift card again anytime soon.

“I won’t buy a gift card until there’s a protection, standard, or protocol that [protects] customers, as if it were a bank,” he said.

“We’re talking cash here. We’re talking money that is being siphoned out of people’s pockets. These cards are basically a product that’s defective as soon as you buy it.”

The Winnipeg Police Service says they have seen several types of gift card and retail scams over the holidays, but not this type of scam in particular.

“One of them that we saw at the beginning of December is where people take the packaging, carefully open it up and then switch out the card that’s inside,” said Const. Jay Murray, a spokesperson for the Winnipeg Police Service.

READ MORE: Winnipeg police warn of gift card scam

“We’ve also seen across Canada, but not necessarily in Winnipeg, where people will tamper with a card that’s not in packaging. They’ll either take down the number or copy that bar code,” Murray added.

“So far that’s not something we really have seen in Winnipeg, but no doubt it will probably head this way eventually.”

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The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre says they don’t track gift card tampering as it falls outside their mandate. They do say that retail crime in general tends to spike over the holidays, and that consumers need to check gift card packaging to see if it’s been tampered with, and ask the retail outlet about their gift card return policy.

They also say if you fall victim to gift card fraud, you should contact your local police department and call the number on the back of the card.

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