OPP campaign against scammers’ gift card tactics

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March is officially Fraud Prevention Month in Canada — and Ontario Provincial Police are taking the opportunity to test your familiarity with the gift card scam.

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Det. Sgt. John Amit of Western Region OPP, who works with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center, said on Tuesday that a total of around $379 million in losses were reported to the center in 2021 — an “historic high.”

Of that total, $3.8 million involved gift cards or prepaid cards, “where victims provided funds to fraudsters,” Amit said.

According to Amit, this style of obtaining money from victims is increasing — and it wouldn’t be if there were proper public awareness of the scam.

Acting Sgt. Ed Sanchuk of Western Region OPP said fraudsters who demand payment in the form of gift cards often purport to be representatives of a law enforcement organization or government agency in order to convince their targets.

“Asking a person to go buy gift cards to pay to get their loved one out of jail — this will not happen,” Sanchuk emphasized. “No law enforcement agency, court, or government organization will ask this.”

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“A person receiving such a call needs to be aware that this is a fraud. Do not send any type of gift cards that you are being asked.”

On Tuesday, OPP announced a new partnership with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center and the Retail Council of Canada to counteract gift card fraud tactics, via a social media campaign and enhanced education efforts at businesses.

Derek Rogers, spokesperson for Western Region OPP, said that while elderly people are often the victims of such scams, “it can happen to anyone.”

Rui Rodrigues, executive advisor with the Retail Council of Canada, said the scammers are skilled at figuring out who they are speaking to,, and leveraging the threats and fears applicable to the target.

“Family is always the easiest thing to threaten,” Rodrigues said. “When your family is threatened, you do silly things, at times — because you want to protect your family, and logic doesn’t always apply… Everybody can fall prey to it.”

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