Kitchener-Waterloo

More than $57K lost to gift card scams in Waterloo region this year: police

In the first two months of the year, 23 people in Waterloo region were victims of gift card scams and lost a combined total of $57,430. On average, victims lost about $2,100 each.

Last year, police say 167 people in the region fell victim to gift card scams

Waterloo regional police are warning the public about gift card scams. (Submitted/Michelle Morrison)

In the first two months of the year, 23 people in Waterloo region were victims of gift card scams and lost a combined total of $57,430. On average, victims lost about $2,100 each.

Now, Waterloo regional police are issuing a warning about the scams.

Police say scammers typically contact potential victims by email or by phone, pretending to be a friend, coworker or fellow church member. The scammers will then ask the victim to buy a gift card and provide them with the activation PIN.

The most requested gift cards are from Google Play, iTunes and Amazon.

In one recent case, police say a 51-year-old woman received a phone call from a scammer claiming to represent her bank. The scammer told the woman she had been the victim of a credit card fraud and that, in order to track down the suspect, she needed to buy and provide the PINs for $1,000 in Google Play Cards.

Once she followed those instructions, the scammer asked the woman to buy more gift cards. It was only on their third try that the woman realized she'd been the victim of the scam.

Age of victims can vary

Police say women tend to be victims of gift card scams more often than men, though the demographics of victims can vary. The most common age categories of victims are those in their 70s, followed by those in their 20s.

Anyone who is asked to make a purchase on behalf of someone else should be careful, police say. Some safety tips include:

  • Being cautious and confirming the legitimacy of any request.
  • Resisting the pressure to act quickly.
  • Trusting your instincts.

Last year, a total of 167 people were victims of gift card scams in the region and lost a total of $293,867.

Police say anyone who is the victim of a scam should report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. More tips are available on the Waterloo regional police website.

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