Scammers are phoning unsuspecting victims and telling them their friend or relative is in jail but can be freed in exchange for prepaid gift cards, Calgary police say.

Dozens of Calgarians have fallen for the scam and the average reported loss is more than $2,500.

Police say 60 per cent of the loses were in the form of iTunes prepaid gift cards. Cards for steam — an online gaming platform — made up 31 per cent of the loses.

The Calgary Police Service says it never contacts family members to free someone from custody, unless they are a minor. Adults who are arrested are given phone access to arrange for bail if required for their release.

As well, bail can only be paid in person at provincial courthouses or correctional centres, police say. And gift cards are not an acceptable form of payment.

So far this year, Calgarians report losing $168,000 through this scam.

In the latest version of this fraud scheme, scammers are often using an online app to spoof the phone number so it appears to be coming from either the police or the person who is supposedly in jail.

Police said the scammers tell their victims to stay on the phone as they go and purchase the gift cards. They then ask for the gift-card activation codes.