Police in Niagara Falls are alerting the public about another in a growing list of scams that fraudsters use to separate people – often senior citizens – from their money: the gift card scam.
In a news release, Niagara Regional Police say the scam starts with the victim receiving a telephone call from a fraudster claiming to be a representative of a financial institution or an online retailer, often from a "spoofed" telephone number that looks real.
"The victim is told there has been an error and funds have accidentally been deposited into their account. In some instances, the fraudster will convince the victim to allow remote access into their computer under the ruse of assisting with the securing of their account.
"The fraudster then requests the funds be paid back by way of gift cards and directs the victim to send the serial numbers of the gift cards after they have been purchased."
The fraudster is then able to use the funds on the gift card, once they have the serial number.
Here are some tips from Niagara Police to avoid becoming victimized by this type of scam:
- Never purchase gift cards as a form of payment. Gift cards are not a form of currency to pay outstanding debts, taxes, utilities, or errors made by financial institutions or online retailers.
- If you receive a telephone call from anyone who encourages you to purchase a gift card and send the serial number, don’t do it – it’s a scam.
- Remember that fraudsters are able to “spoof” telephone numbers to make it appear on a caller ID that they are a representative of a financial institution, online retailer, or otherwise.
- If in doubt, consult with a family member or a trusted friend before making any decisions. In most cases, once you pause and tell the story, it will become apparent it doesn’t sound right and is likely a scam.
If you have been a victim of a scam and experienced a financial loss, the Niagara Regional Police Service says you should call the non-emergency line at 905-688-4111 and report it.
If you have received one of these calls but did not experience a financial loss, you are urged to report it to the by Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre by dialing 1-888-495-8501 or by visiting their website.