THUNDER BAY – CRIME – The Thunder Bay Police Service is investigating a reported phone scam involving a fraudster who put significant effort toward convincing their target to pay up.
The victim received a phone call from someone claiming to be from Service Canada on Thursday, Jan. 16. The caller stated there was an open file showing a warrant attached to the victim’s Social Insurance Number (SIN).
The fraudster provided the victim with instructions to purchase Google Play cards at a specific location, at which point the victim would call the fraudster back so that police could meet them in person. The victim’s caller ID showed a phone number belonging to a local law enforcement agency.
A male suspect posing as a police officer met the victim in the parking lot of the Shoppers Drug Mart located at 300 Memorial Avenue at about 2:15 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 16. This male demanded the victim purchase the Google Play cards and provide information to the original caller as instructed.
The person posing as a police officer is described as a tall Caucasian male with a large build. He had blonde hair and was clean shaven. He wore what appeared to be a police uniform and a baseball cap at the time of the incident.
The victim was convinced to purchase the gift cards, but became suspicious despite the fraudster’s aggressive deception efforts. Ultimately the victim refused to provide the original caller with the gift card bar codes.
The victim instead independently contacted the Thunder Bay Police Service by appearing at the 1200 Balmoral Street headquarters where it was confirmed there was no warrant attached to her SIN and she was the target of a scam.
Thunder Bay Police Service officers with the Economic Crimes Unit are now investigating. If you have any information that could help identify the male suspect who met this victim, please call police at 684-1200 or submit tips through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477, online at www.p3tips.com.
If you are concerned about potential scams and want to learn more please contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (http://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/)
Never provide your SIN to a caller even if you cannot verify they are attempting to scam you. Remember caller IDs can be masked, so someone should not be trusted simply because they have a seemingly legitimate caller ID.
Instead, hang up and independently contact the institution in question. Do not use any contact information provided by the suspicious caller. Never provide payment to people who phone you, especially if they require payment through unique means like gift cards and pre-loaded credit cards.
In this case the victim may have prevented significant financial loss because they made the decision to independently make direct contact with the Thunder Bay Police Service to verify the scammer’s claims.
The Thunder Bay Police Service strongly encourages residents to speak with potentially vulnerable family members and friends about these ongoing scams. These would-be fraudsters are experts at creating a sense of urgency and panic. This panic leads to quick decisions, which oftentimes leads to success for the scammer.
The elderly and foreign students, who may have limited understanding about Canadian laws, are sometimes more aggressively targeted.