A Turner Valley resident was recently the victim of a phone scam.
It's a scam many will already be familiar with; the caller will phone the victim and pose as any number of figures like a police officer, Amazon employee, or IT specialist, and goad them into purchasing pre-paid cards or gift cards.
In this case, the scammer was claiming to be a bank security official and convinced the victim to purchase over $3000 in pre-paid cards.
Cpl. Ryan Eckersley says these transactions are difficult to track and recover for a few reasons.
"Usually these scams originate overseas, so the chances of recovering those funds are very low. Once money leaves the country it's difficult to do any type of recovery... Things like Interac e-transfers are easy for us to track because Canadian banking is very regulated, record-keeping is meticulous, whereas these gift cards are highly unregulated and usually not being dealt with or managed by Canadian institutions. It's sort of a loophole that scammers have found to move money, in most cases internationally, without much recourse."
As is the case with most of these incidents, the scammer stayed on the phone with the victim for the duration of the scam, including when the victim went out to purchase the cards.
Given the widespread nature of these kinds of scams, and how long they've been going on, onlookers often recognize that they're taking place and step in to try and help the victim.
Cpl. Eckersley has heard of this kind of thing happening, and even encourages it.
"There's essentially no risk to yourself in a case like that. Really, you're just helping out another fellow person. You can advise them 'hang up the phone, call them back, you're being scammed, this doesn't sound right,' things like that. I've heard stories where cashiers have said 'I'm not going to sell you these gift cards until you get off the phone, because this doesn't make sense.'"
Given that these scams rely on putting pressure on the victim, attempting to break contact between the victim and caller can do a lot to snap them out of it.
"If you see somebody on the phone, maybe they look distressed or out of sorts and they're buying large sums of gift cards, there's no harm in asking 'are you okay?' These scammers do prey on that sense of urgency and keeping you on the line. It's always okay to slow down and take the time."
He says onlookers can also call the police on a non-emergency line to intervene if they see someone actively being scammed.