Wait! Don’t take the bait!

Edmonton, Alberta – Whether you’re the one being contacted by a potential scammer, or you think someone else may be falling for a scam, trust your gut!

After one woman lost over $200,000 in just a three-month span, the Edmonton Police Service is urging citizens to talk about scams with their loved ones.

This scam started in December 2020. The complainant was contacted over the phone by the scammer, who posed as a Fraud Investigator from her bank; he called himself Timothy. Timothy told the victim that her bank account was compromised, and the fraudsters had her SIN.

But she was in luck! Timothy could find out who hacked into her bank account; he just needed information about the victim, such as her kids, grandkids, medical history, daily routine, where she lives, and her personal investments.

Wait! Don’t take the bait!
(EPS) Wait! Don’t take the bait!

The victim was told that her financial advisor was a scammer, and that she couldn’t tell anyone else, including family and police, about this investigation, otherwise, she would interfere with him catching the scammer. To catch the scammer, Timothy told her to take money out of her bank account and purchase Google Play Gift Cards that she would then provide him the codes for. The victim was under the impression that it was the bank’s money she was spending, not her own, so she believed this was okay.

Timothy coached her on how to act, and what to say if anyone questioned the large dollar value that she was spending on gift cards. She would say that they were for her grandkids for something to do during “COVID times” and if her bank questioned it, it was for medical expenses or home renovations. Anyone who questioned her or were hesitant to sell her the cards, would be written down and Timothy would send her to new locations.

This ended thanks to a bystander. An employee working at a grocery store was approached by the victim to provide $2000 worth of gift cards. The employee questioned her, but she had said what she was told to, and the transaction proceeded. But the employee knew something was wrong and forwarded the transaction to the store’s Loss Prevention Officer who contacted EPS and patrol members attended the victim’s home.

As instructed, the victim told officers the same story she was telling for three months, so Patrol spoke with her family who were unaware of the gift card purchases and said she hadn’t given any gift cards to her grandchildren. After the family spoke with the victim, they told police that she was coached to say what she did, and that she had fallen victim to a scam that also encompassed her creating additional bank accounts, sending wire transfers, and having someone impersonate the victim to her actual financial advisor to cash all her investments. This scam cost her over $245,000.

“If it wasn’t for the employee’s concern and taking that extra step, this woman would likely still be losing money,” Detective Jason Lapointe with Economic Crimes Section explains. “We encourage employees to trust their gut and take the extra step to warn customers. Most importantly, we encourage families and friends to talk openly about scams and the common signs of scams with one another.”

Remember: scammers prey on emotions, whether that’s fear, love, panic, or guilt. Take a step back from what they are telling you and think about the legitimacy of the situation. Know that any unsolicited communication by phone or email requesting Bitcoin or gift cards should be treated as a scam. If you’re still not sure, pick up the phone and talk to someone you trust; family, friends, or police (780-423-4567).

MRU #: 21R032

Edmonton Police Service

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