A Calgary woman is warning others to be vigilant after she was almost duped out of hundreds of dollars this past holiday season.
Jan Mahoney went to Shoppers Drug Mart at Market Mall to purchase some Canadian Tire gift cards for relatives down east just before Christmas.
But when she got to the till, she was in for a huge surprise.
“He said, ‘This seems pretty fishy,'” Mahoney said.
Mahoney said the employee then ripped open the package.
“He scanned it and on the cash register display it showed Best Buy instead of Canadian Tire,” she added.
Mahoney said she was told it was likely a fake card — put inside a legitimate package. Another one of her Canadian Tire cards rang up the same way.
“Honest to goodness, if he hadn’t been paying attention and knew just to look for that little difference — I would have just assumed everything was good.”
“I’m naïve and just assume when you’re buying a gift card, it’s a gift card,” she added.
Greg Pendlebury is the front store manager at this Calgary Shoppers location. He told Global News he’s very proud of his front-line staff who have been trained on the tips and tricks of spotting fraudulent gift cards.
“It’s a big deal,” he said. “We want to protect our customers. We don’t want anybody taken advantage of.”
Pendlebury added customers should also be on the lookout for any suspicious activity.
“I would always be diligent about checking any card that you pick up,” he said. “Just see if the seam is kind of cracked or compromised on the sides. One big thing is to match the numbers from the card to the actual screen on the till.”
Pendlebury said the majority of gift card scams he has seen have involved seniors. He pointed to the so-called CRA scam that coerces vulnerable people into buying gift cards to send to thieves in order to stay out of prison.
“Some of these transactions are $2,000 to $3,000 at a time,” he said. “So that adds up pretty quick.”
Pendlebury said his store alone has stopped several fraudulent activities from happening, but he acknowledged frauds will likely continue to happen — despite everyone’s best attempts to stop them.
“Anytime that they change the security features on the cards, especially the financial gift cards, the scammers or thieves seem to come up with something to counteract that.”
Global News reached out to both Canadian Tire and Best Buy to ask them if they were aware of this specific scam.
Best Buy said in a statement it “has not seen much of this in our stores as our gift cards are kept close to the front check outs. We have also never heard of a situation with different card inside a package.”
Canadian Tire responded: “This is a type of fraud we’re aware of in the market and we continue to enhance the fraud protection on our gift cards.”
Both retailers reiterated how seriously they take fraud and security and advised anyone who believed they may have been victimized to contact them and the authorities.
Mahoney said she’s grateful the employee she dealt with prevented her from being scammed in the first place.
“It would have been a really sucky gift. And one of them was for a kid, so I’m really glad he caught it.”