Police warn of identity theft and fraud risk in online cannabis sales

Edmonton, Alberta – Police are noticing a concerning trend of personal information gathering by illicit cannabis sellers.

Ongoing Edmonton Drug and Gang Enforcement (EDGE) Unit investigations into Edmonton-area organized crime networks revealed that not only are these crime networks running illicit online cannabis ordering operations, but they are also requiring prospective buyers to submit sensitive personal information in order to verify their identity.

In most transactions, the sellers request photographs of the prospective buyer’s government ID, a photo of the buyer holding that ID, and another piece of documentation such as a utility bill, which contains the buyer’s address. Buyers are not aware that their personal information is often distributed through criminal networks, placing them at high risk of identity theft and fraud.

In 2021, 15 individuals involved in organized crime networks have been arrested for Cannabis Act and Controlled Drug and Substances Act contraventions, along with some weapons related charges.

Some of the images found on the cell phones of the accused. Buyers are asked to submit photos of themselves holding their ID.
Some of the images found on the cell phones of the accused. Buyers are asked to submit photos of themselves holding their ID.

During these arrests, police found hundreds of text messages containing images of customer IDs. Some of the individuals arrested also had recent criminal charges or convictions for identity theft, break and enter, fraud under $5000, credit card fraud, and possession of stolen property.

“What’s concerning about this is that unsuspecting buyers are handing over their personal information to people who have criminal connections and, in some cases, convictions related to identity theft and fraud,” says S/Sgt David Paton, EPS EDGE Section. “Being in possession of illicit cannabis could result in criminal charges, but being a victim of identity theft should also be a very real concern, given the devastating financial and personal cost of this crime.”

In Alberta, the AGLC is federally appointed as the provincial body with the authority to sell recreational cannabis products online. As such, the AGLC website albertacannabis.org is currently the only legal online retailer of recreational cannabis in Alberta. (For people with medical cannabis prescriptions, a list of licensed cultivators, processors and sellers of medical cannabis is available through Health Canada.)

Remember: scammers don’t always commit identity fraud immediately; it can take years before a stolen identity is used in a crime. Be sure to keep your identity safe and check your credit ratings. You can learn more about these frauds and the necessary information you should bring when filing a fraud report on our fraud webpages.

Learn more about legal online cannabis sales and how to weed out the scam.

Edmonton Police Service

MRU #: 21R091

“Dedicated to Protect, Proud to Serve”

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