Edmonton police came out with a warning about online merchandise and ticket fraud Monday morning, saying people in the city lost more than $723,000 to the scams last year.
The announcement was made in conjunction with the start of Fraud Prevention Month, which is held every year in March.
According to the Edmonton Police Service, 279 Edmontonians lost a total of $723,500.69 to online merchandise and ticket frauds in 2019.
Keith Pulles was one of the victims. He lost $600 while attempting to buy tickets to an Edmonton Oilers game last spring.
In April 2019, Pulles and his wife were unable to find tickets to buy, so decided to post a wanted ad on Kijiji.
About a week later, Pulles said he was contacted by someone who identified themselves as a Ticketmaster broker who had a set of Oilers tickets.
After talking on the phone, Pulles said the broker asked that he use online virtual currency platform Coincurve for the transaction. Pulles said he and his wife did a bit of research on the site and decided it was a legitimate system.
Pulles said he sent the money but then his bank stopped the transaction.
“I told him that if my bank’s not comfortable with this, then I’m not either,” Pulles said.
Pulles said the alleged ticket broker agreed to let him send an e-transfer, but asked that he send it to his wife’s email address. When Pulles’ e-transfer was not accepted, he said he reached out to the broker who said his wife worked shift work and hadn’t yet found time to accept the transaction.
Pulles said he was then told that the broker’s wife’s bank cancelled the e-transfer, and his money was returned.
Pulles said at this point, he felt trust had been built between him and the apparent broker, so he agreed to send the broker bitcoin.
“He talked to us on the phone, we had his phone number… he even gave our money back the first time,” Pulles explained. “He really let us trust him.”
The bitcoin transaction went through and Pulles said he was told he would have his Oilers tickets in just a few minutes. But the tickets never came.
The apparent broker ghosted him and wasn’t answering his calls. At this point, Pulles said he knew he’d been scammed.
Pulles said he was able to get a hold of the broker’s “wife,” who police said turned out to have been scammed and extorted by the broker herself.
Edmonton police said education and understanding are key when it comes to preventing fraud victimization.
“Fraud is a crime that is vastly under reported for fear of being judged, shamed, or chastised if they share their experience with family, friends, co-workers, or even the police,” the EPS said in a media release Monday.
“But we hope that anyone who is a victim of fraud will trust in us. We are here to help.”
The EPS will share information on a number of common frauds this month as part of Fraud Prevention Month, including employment scams, romance scams, identity theft and mass marketing scams.