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Businesses warn of costly and dangerous fake reservation, party planning scam

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Businesses warn of costly, potentially dangerous scam involving restaurant reservation
WATCH: Two Alberta businesses are warning others after getting caught up in a scam involving fake reservations and cake orders. As Tomasia DaSilva reports, this could have cost them a lot of money and their safety. – Jan 23, 2023

A couple of Calgary businesses are warning others after getting caught up in a fake party planning and reservation scam.

Marda Loop Brewing was recently contacted by someone looking to reserve a large space at its southwest Calgary location for an anniversary party. Owner Mike de Jonge said he thought nothing of the email request.

“He was at sea. He was an engineer on a boat,” de Jonge said he was told by the sender.

de Jonge also said he thought nothing of the customer asking him to take care of the cake for the party. But a few red flags did pop up when he was asked to pay for it in Bitcoin.

“$4,500 for some cake and cupcakes,” the customer quoted, de Jonge said.

“He had mentioned that even though he had a credit card to pay for it, the business that was baking it for him wasn’t taking credit cards.”

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Marda Loop was provided with an email address, supposedly for the bakery, which de Jonge started corresponding with. He noted there were some spelling mistakes on the emails but said everything else “looked normal.”

“They did provide an address, which was a local address,” he pointed out. “Looked it up on google maps and it ended up being a bakery.”

He noted, however, that the bakery name was slightly different from what he was told so he did some research and cross-checking. He eventually sent an email to the owner on the company’s website.

“The lady had never heard of the order, doesn’t take Bitcoin – you know the whole nine (yards).”

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Stacey Pratz has run and owned Simply Delicious Cake Studio for the past two-and-a-half years. Pratz isn’t a stranger to scams but told Global News she didn’t expect to get mixed up in this one.

“I was definitely shocked,” she said.

Pratz explained to de Jonge that while he had the right address, she had not been asked to make a cake topping $4,000.

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She also explained she does not take Bitcoin as a payment, and the cost of the cake was “outrageous.”

After comparing stories, they both realized they were the victims of a potentially costly and dangerous scam.

“Can you imagine that I would have paid $4,500 for this order and now I show up at her business,” he asked. “She doesn’t know there’s an order. She doesn’t know who I am. And I might be angry.”

“If a person walks up here expecting a cake and I realize it’s a scam and I don’t have what they need, they may take it out on me or my family. So definitely that’s what I would be afraid of,” Pratz added.

The Calgary mom of two young kids has now decided to change how she advertises her home-based business. She has asked Google to change how it showcases her address and she plans to only provide it to actual customers.

Despite that, Pratz said she is worried about what may still be out there.

“They are imitating me and it’s still a concern because I don’t know how many other emails have been sent out.”

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Global News reached out to the Calgary Police Service which told us its Economic Crime Unit does not have this type of crime reported — yet.

As with any scam, people are asked to research the company, carefully check email addresses and never send money without confirming it is legitimate.

Neither de Jonge nor Pratz lost out on any money with both catching on to the scam before being defrauded and both having processes in place in order to not be defrauded in the first place.

But de Jonge said it can be easy for businesses to fall victim, especially if they have been struggling.

“It’s nice to make a few thousand dollars on a reservation,” he said.

“But just do your due diligence and make sure you verify all that info. If it’s too good to be true — it probably is.”

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