Police are warning Saanich residents to be wary of fraud after a local recently fell victim to a gift card scam.
The Saanich Police Department hasn’t seen too many scams relating to COVID-19 as other jurisdictions have but public information officer Const. Markus Anastasiades is warning residents to look out for schemes involving gift cards.
If you receive a text / email from someone you know asking you to buy them gift cards? Then they ask you to scratch the back and send them the codes? It's a scam. #fraudalert #Saanich #scam pic.twitter.com/TrjQLZNHHI
— Saanich Police (@SaanichPolice) April 29, 2020
Anastasiades explained that people have reported receiving texts or emails from scammers pretending to be someone they know – for example, their boss – and asking them to purchase gift cards. The scammer then asks that the person scratch the back of the gift cards and send them the information on the back so the funds can be used without having the physical card.
Recently, a Saanich resident fell victim to the scam and picked up several Google Play gift cards and sent the information to a scammer who then asked them to buy more, Anastasiades explained. When the resident returned to the store for more Google Play cards, the clerk caught on and asked if someone was telling them to buy the cards.
Luckily, the clerk was able to refund some of the gift cards but the resident did lose money, Anastasiades said. He pointed out that while clerks in Saanich aren’t specifically advised by police about the signs of scams, many are aware of the most common ones due to media coverage and are able to step in.
Anastasiades emphasized that it’s important to be wary of anyone asking for gift cards, money, Bitcoin or anything unusual. He added that scammers can spoof emails and phone numbers and pretend to be someone the victim knows.
“They’re very crafty and clever,” Anastasiades said. He recommends calling the person to confirm it’s really them before making any purchases or sending funds.
Anastasiades explained that it’s important for anyone who’s been contacted by a scammer to report it to police and to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. This allows officials to investigate the incident and track trends to protect others, he said pointing out that there’s no need to be embarrassed when it comes to scams.
According to the Anti-Fraud Centre, by the end of March, Canadians had reported nearly 13,000 cases of fraud in 2020 and $15.8 million in total losses so far.