Peterborough man loses $7,000 in emergency scam

News Police Media Release

A Peterborough man has lost $7,000 in an emergency scam involving the purchase of gaming gift cards.

In late January 2018 the victim, a man in his late 70’s, received a phone call from someone he thought was his son who quickly stated he had been in an accident, was at court and he needed help to speak to his attorney.

At that time another man got on the phone and identified himself as the son’s “attorney”. The attorney stated that his client admitted he was at fault during the accident and needed to pay a $4,000 fine plus cover costs associated to the other driver including medical costs.

The attorney explained to the victim that he had to go to a store and purchase Steam gift cards and he would later call back to redeem the cards. Steam is an online gaming platform and Steam cards are prepaid gift cards that can be used to purchase games, software and other items on the web site.

The victim went to a local drug store where he initially bought $3,500 in Steam gift cards. The victim called the “attorney” back and provided the card codes off each card. The attorney told the victim to go back out and purchase another $3,500 in Steam cards, which the victim did.

In total the victim purchased $7,000 in Steam gift cards and provided all the redeemable codes to the fraudulent lawyer via telephone.

A couple of days later the victim called his son to check on him and learned that he had been the victim of a scam. The incident was then reported to police.

This type of fraud, typically called an Emergency Scam, creates a high-stress, quick response situation that plays off the victim’s emotions.

The Peterborough Police Service urges people to stop, pause and think when they receive this type of phone call, email or text. If you receive this sort of call immediately hang up and try to get a hold of the family member who has reportedly been in the accident or needs help.

If you cannot get a hold of that family member try to get in touch with another family member who can verify that the person is in fact okay.

Warning bells should be going off when someone on the phone asks you to make any sort of payment with gift cards.

Before making any sort of payment, call a trusted family member or friend and check with your bank. Never make a payment to anyone who claims you can only pay via an untraceable method, like wire transfers, prepaid debit cards, or gift cards.

We also urge retailers to be vigilant and aware of customers coming into a store purchasing large amounts of gift cards. Please stop and think and ask the customer a couple of quick questions to determine if they are potentially being scammed.

How to protect yourself:

  • Remember: Scammers are counting on the fact that you will want to act quickly to help your loved ones in an emergency.
  • Caution: Never send money to anyone you don’t know and trust. Verify the person’s identity before you take any steps to help.
  • Think: Don’t give out any personal information to the caller.
  • Investigate: Ask the person questions that only your loved one would be able to answer. Call the child’s parents or friends to verify the story.
  • Ask yourself: Does the caller’s story make sense?

(From the Competition Bureau of Canada)

This is a reminder that there are several scams currently circulating in the area. To better educate yourself on these scams please visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre under Fraud Types or the Competition Bureau

To report a fraud please contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre toll free at 1-800-495-8501.

If you have been a victim of fraud or scam, meaning you have provided personal information/banking information or lost money in a scam, please contact the Peterborough Police Service at 705-876-1122 or report a non-emergency crime

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