Last week Thelma Doherty of the Jean Coutu in Lennoxville twice encountered shoppers buying a shockingly large amount of iTunes gift cards. Concerned and confused by the situation, she asked about the purchases and, after some hesitation on the part of the buyers, she discovered that they were buying the cards after having been threatened by a caller claiming to be from the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA).
“He had them so afraid,” Doherty said, explaining that the buyers had been told that they owed back taxes and would have to pay them off using the gift cards or face arrest and other serious consequences. As soon as she became aware of the situation, the pharmacy employee said that she contacted the Lennoxville Familiprix and the local Couche Tard to warn them of the situation, as well as the Sherbrooke police.
Samuel Ducharme of the Sherbrooke Police said that the scam format is known to the SPS, but said that he was not aware that the scam was being perpetrated in the city.
“It’s not new,” the communications agent said, “It seems ridiculous, but it is working,”
Ducharme explained that following up on fraud is challenging for the police because of the fact that any time the scam revolves around credit card use, the cardholder is reimbursed by the company. This makes the company the victim of the crime, but the large credit card companies very rarely file complaints. In this case of this iTunes fraud, however, Ducharme said that the victims are certainly the card buyers.
“If there was a purchase, then they were the victim,” Ducharme said, adding that it is important for fraud victims to contact the police right away.
Daniel Williams of the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) explained that the Canada Revenue Agency Phone scam, of which this new iTunes scam is an offshoot, is massive. Having started in late 2013, the scam now represents almost one third of the 60,000 reports that the centre receives on an annual basis.
Read the full story in Tuesday’s Record.