Ottawa police investigating possible PPE scam

An Orleans business owner says he was left "speechless" when his bank told him a certified cheque used to purchase $75,000 worth of disposable gloves was fake.

Orléans business owner says man paid for $75K worth of disposable gloves with a fake cheque

Andrew Bascoe said a man used this fraudulent cheque to purchase $75,000 worth of disposable gloves from his company, Orleans Janitorial Supplies. (Supplied by Orleans Janitorial Supplies)

An Orléans business owner says a man paid him for $75,000 worth of disposable gloves with a fraudulent certified cheque in an apparent personal protective equipment (PPE) scam.

The Ottawa police fraud unit confirmed it's investigating the incident after receiving a complaint from the business.

Andrew Bascoe, who owns Orleans Janitorial Supplies on St. Joseph Boulevard, said his business recently received a request from an individual for a large order of disposable gloves. He thought they were destined for the Hull Hospital.

I was speechless.... I'm still in shock.​​​​​- Andrew Bascoe, Orleans Janitorial Supplies

"Everything looked legit from the get-go," said Bascoe. "I assumed they were going to the hospital because I saw the purchase order said ... the hospital address, the telephone number of the hospital."

Bascoe said on Friday, the man came to collect the gloves and handed over the cheque for nearly $100,000, payment for the initial order as well as more gloves on back order.

But when Bascoe attempted to deposit it the next day, the bank teller and a manager told him the cheque appeared to be a fake.

"[The teller] said to me, 'A TD-certified cheque doesn't look like that.' I said, 'What do you mean?'" Bascoe recalled. "I was speechless.... I'm still in shock."

Bascoe said he then contacted Ottawa police.

Bascoe found out the cheque was a fake when he tried to deposit it at his local bank branch on Saturday. (Supplied by Orleans Janitorial Supplies)

Large orders a 'red flag', police say

Ottawa police said they've received "about three" complaints regarding PPE scams during the pandemic.

"In all cases, the victim/business is dealing with a new customer who is making a very large order. Our Fraud experts stress that this is a red flag in itself," police said in a statement. 

"[In] those specific circumstances, it is highly recommended that the business conducts their due diligence and wait for the funds to clear before allowing the merchandise to be transported. No matter the method of payment – considering a certified cheque can be fraudulent, a credit card may be stolen or it could come from a fraudulent Government account."

Bascoe said he thought he had done his due diligence by requesting to see a purchase order, and had even recently warned employees not to accept email orders from foreign countries.

He said he's now waiting to hear whether his insurance will cover the value of the gloves. 

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