A common phone scam involving the purchase of iTunes cards drained more than $85,000 out of Canadians’ wallets in 2016. File photo/ Jessica Peters/The Progress

A common phone scam involving the purchase of iTunes cards drained more than $85,000 out of Canadians’ wallets in 2016. File photo/ Jessica Peters/The Progress

B.C. senior scammed out of $2,000

A Kelowna family is warning others after a senior nearly lost his savings

A Kelowna family is urging other B.C. residents to watch out for a scam that nearly cost an 80-year-old man his entire savings account.

The family, which asked to stay anonymous for the sake of the victim, wanted to share their story to try to save another senior from the same fate.

It all started with a fairly common scam. A call came to the senior’s land line from a ‘very kind sounding man’ who offered to upgrade his computer and download a ‘helpful’ new program.

Very similar to the ‘Microsoft Scam’ model where cyber criminals claim to be from Microsoft and offer to help solve your computer problems or sell you a software license. Once they have access to your computer, they can wreak havoc.

In this case the Kelowna senior bought the ‘software’ from the man and thought everything was all right. He paid $400 for this fraudulent software.

Two weeks later the scammer called back, now claiming the senior owed them a bunch more money.

There was much back and forth and the senior felt the man had provided a service and that he did, in fact, owe the man the remaining bill of $2,000.

The man told him to purchase iTunes gift cards to pay off the remaining bill.

Once convinced the senior headed to Walmart to purchase the iTunes gift cards as instructed. He asked the store for 20-$100 gift cards totalling $2,000.

The Walmart staff questioned the purchase and asked the senior if he was sure he needed these items. The Kelowna man told them he had “18 grandkids” he was buying them for. The store allowed the purchase and the senior went home.

Related: Scams, like spring, are in the air

Once home his wife got suspicious as she said he was acting strange and wouldn’t explain what he was doing.

When she saw him scratching off the back of one of the cards to read the number to the scammer over the phone she stepped in. The scammer attempted to stop the wife’s intervention by telling the senior to lock her out of the room, but the wife prevailed.

She grabbed the iTunes gift cards and the phone and made a new call, she knew she had to get her children involved. It was at this point that the senior realized the whole thing was a scam.

Fortunately, no gift card information was ever given over to the cyber criminal.

The Kelowna couple was devastated and phoned the Kelowna RCMP and their local bank — who were both extremely helpful. A fraud file was opened and the RCMP told them to head back to Walmart and try to return the gift cards.

The next day they were flat out told by a manager at the Kelowna Walmart that they were out of luck. Even though the cards were not used, Walmart does not allow the return of gift cards. The RCMP officer told the family she was surprised Walmart would have sold the cards to the man, knowing it was a likely scam, and surprised they wouldn’t return his money.

Fortunately his family was not ready to back down, despite what the initial Walmart manager had said.

His children and grandchildren got involved at this point and were able to confirm through both iTunes and Walmart Corporate that they do have the ability to refund the money if the cards are not used.

Two more visits to Walmart and a new ‘more helpful’ store manager later, the senior was refunded in full for all but one of the $100 gift cards, the company could not take back the scratched one.

In this case the senior was fortunate to get his money back, but many seniors are not.

This iTunes gift card scam is now so prevalent some stores in the USA and Canada are limiting the amount of gift cards that they will sell you at any given time.

Related: Chilliwack woman warns of tax evasion phone scam

The Kelowna Walmart told the Cap News all staff involved in the sale of the gift cards were spoken too and that staff had followed procedure to warn the senior.

The RCMP warns all Canadians that any time you are asked to pay for a service or product with an iTunes gift card, it is a scam.

“Hanging up the phone is the best course of action you can take,” said the RCMP.

You only need to call your local RCMP detachment if you have been victimized by the scam.

“RCMP always recommend you consult with a family member or close friend before taking any action.”

For more information on frauds and fraud prevention tips, please visit the B.C. RCMP website or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website.


@carmenweld
carmen.weld@bpdigital.ca

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