Calgary restaurant warns others to beware of a potential scam

N9NA's Kitchen general manager Karen Lloyd says she was targeted several times this month with emails asking for up to $1,500 in food that turned out to be a scam. The food was supposedly for heroic front-line workers.

Online order request for large amount of food raised red flags

Extremely large orders sent to N9NA's Kitchen at 121 17th Ave. S.E. raised suspicions with the general manager. (Helen Pike/CBC)

A Calgary restaurant says there may be a new scam targeting Calgary businesses.

N9NA's Kitchen general manager Karen Lloyd said she was targeted several times this month with emails asking for up to $1,500 in food — that the order was destined for front-line workers who have been heroically working through this pandemic.

At first, Lloyd said she was excited. Times are tough and it would be a good stream of income for the 17th Avenue S.E. restaurant. 

But, as she kept conversing with the person on the other side of the screen, there were some red flags. 

"I got so excited when that first order came in," Lloyd said. "I was like, dude, that's so good for us right now because, you know, no one's doing well … it's really devastating. So I was like, I'm just glad that we caught it in time."

First, tracking the IP address, Lloyd said it led to servers in the United States, which raised her suspicions. She said she kept emailing back and forth to get more information from whoever was placing the order. 

N9NA's general manager, Karen Lloyd, says that with all the pandemic restrictions, times are tough and takeout orders are the restaurant's only business. (Helen Pike/CBC)

The man asked about pricing, and then broke down the final bill, which was more than $1,500.

But then he asked Lloyd about her point-of-sale system, asking if it was an older or new model because the credit card he wanted to use would not work on newer models. The person also asked to be charged thousands more than the final bill — to pay for a tip and a driver.

Lloyd said she immediately posted about the incident on social media, to alert other business owners. She's also spoken to a number of nearby restaurants that have had similar requests.

And Lloyd contacted the police.

"I want all of the small business owners to be aware of scams like this going on," Lloyd said.

"It's desperate times right now. People are doing whatever they can to get whatever they can out of whoever they can, which is really unfortunate. So, you know, I just want everyone to be aware of the situation and just try and be as alert as possible." 

Police say to be cautious when filling email orders

According to the Calgary Police Service, they haven't seen an increase in the number of these types of scams reported. 

They urge businesses to be wary of large online orders. 

In a statement, a spokesperson said restaurateurs should watch out for: 

  • Grammar or spelling errors within the email.
  • Details seem suspicious (e.g. ordering large quantities of food, asking for overpayment).
  • Requests for payment using methods like cryptocurrency or wire money transfers.

CPS suggests asking the person to give the restaurant a call or take orders using a trusted third party meal delivery app.