In an effort to curb gift card scams, LaSalle police have out up signs at local businesses, asking people to think before they buy.
Police say it can happen over the phone, by email, or text — when someone who says they know you needs help, or pose as an official agency, asking that you make payments to them in the form of gift cards.
In any case, police say anyone asking for payment in form of a gift card is a scammer.
“We had 15 [scams] in 2022 — we had 15 of those scams, three of which were for bitcoin, which is a similar type of premise,” explained Const. Terry Seguin, community liaison officer for LaSalle police.
“But 13 were people that actually went to the store, got the gift card and were out of money as a result.”
Seguin says there is lots of information on the LaSalle police website about avoiding these types of scams and others, but that police wanted to “go back to basics” and put up physical signs in stores in the community.
Generally, older adults are falling victim to these scams, said Seguin. But anyone can be a target.
How to spot a scam
Police say only scammers will try to get you to pay with a gift card — no other agency or official will do this.
They also offered a list of common scams happening right now:
- CRA or CBSA scam. The caller says they’re from the government — such as the Canada Revenue Agency or Canada Border Services Agency. They say you have to pay taxes or a fine.
- Tech support scam. Someone calls from tech support, maybe saying they’re from Apple or Microsoft. You may also get a pop-up on your computer telling you that there is a virus in your computer with a number to call to fix it. They say there’s something wrong with your computer and you have to pay them to get it fixed. But it’s a lie.
- Romance scam – You meet someone special on a dating website, but then they need money and ask you to help them. This scammer makes up any story to trick you into sending them money or gift cards.
- Emergency scam – The scammer calls and pretends to be a friend or family member in an emergency and asks you to send money right away and tells you not tell anyone. Hang up and call the friend or relative to check that everything is all right.
- Lottery, prize, or sweepstakes scam. You receive a phone call, text or email saying that you’ve won a prize, but first, you have to pay fees or other charges by sending money or by paying with a gift card.
- Utility company scam. The caller says they’re from your hydro company or another utility company. They may threaten to cut off your service if you don’t pay immediately. They may also try to convince you into signing up for services through misleading tactics.
- Overpayment scam. You sell something and get a cheque from someone for way more than you expected. They tell you to deposit the cheque, then give them the difference by wiring, e-transferring the money, or by way of a gift card.
What to do if you already bought the gift card
Police say if you have already paid a scammer with a gift card, contact the company that issued it immediately.
Additionally, you should report the fraud to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre online or call 1-888-495-8501.
Even if you didn’t pay, you can still report the fraud, say police.
You should also report it to your local police.
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