News / Calgary

Police issue warning about police impersonation phone scam

Victims are asked to bail out a friend or family using pre-paid gift cards

Calgary police issued a warning to citizens today about a twist on a common scam where people are targeted by scammers pretending to be police.

In the latest scam, citizens get a call from someone saying they work for the Calgary Police Service.

The scammer tells the person that on of their friends or family members is in custody and to bail them out by using pre-paid gift cards, most commonly iTunes gift cards.

The scammers instruct their victim to stay on the phone while they go and purchase the gift cards and to then provide the scammer with the gift-card activation codes before their loved one is released.

“In many of these instances, scammers used an online app to spoof the phone number so it appears the call is coming from either their friend or family member, or the CPS,” said a prepared release from police.

In some cases, victims received a call from someone claiming to be delivering a package to friend or family member prior to the scam phone call where they are then told their friend of family member is in custody.

“The scammer asks for that person’s cell phone number so they can deliver the package,” said police. “Scammers are also using spoofing technology in these calls so they appear to be coming from a legitimate delivery company.”

Police said that as with similar scams, the offenders tend to us very aggressive tactics to pressure their victims into providing money.

“These tactics includes keeping victims on the phone for long periods of time, threats, and harassment through frequent phone calls,” said police.

So far this year, victims in Calgary have reported losses totalling $168K in scams where victims are asked to purchase pre-paid credit and gift cards.

According to police, 60 per cent of these losses were in the form of iTunes cards, followed by 31 per cent of losses in the form of Steam cards.

The average dollar loss to reported victims of these scams are over $2,500 each.

Tips from police:

The Calgary Police Service will never contact family members to solicit bail money for individuals who have been arrested. Citizens will only be contacted by CPS about the arrest of one of their family members if the person in custody is a minor. People who have been charged or are eligible for bail have access to phones to contact their friends and family members. Bail is not managed by the CPS and can only be paid in-person at provincial courthouses or correctional centres. Acceptable forms of payments do not include any form of gift cards, including iTunes gift cards. The CPS will never solicit payments in the form of gift cards. If a citizen receives a call stating that a friend or family member is in custody, they should hang up the phone make attempts to contact that person. As in all cases, if you are told you owe money, never feel pressure to provide payment until you’ve determined if the debt is real. Legitimate requests will not be that urgent. If your workplace sells gift cards be on the lookout for potential victims and inform them about this scam. Victims may seem very stressed and agitated, be on the phone and purchasing a large amount of gift cards. Always report it to police. If you have lost money or been the victim of a legitimate threat, call 403-266-1234.

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