You receive an alarming call from someone who claims to be from the government. They say that something went horribly wrong and that the only way out of this mess is to pay the money you owe as soon as possible. They convince you that the fastest way to get the money is to pay them with iTunes gift cards.
Don’t give in! This is a typical example of an extortion scam.
These scams are on the rise in Canada. They take many shapes. Sometimes, scammers pretend to be from the government, like in the example above, or from the police and threaten to be on their way to arrest you or deport you. They can go even as far as claiming that a close relative is hurt or in danger. Details vary but the outcome is always the same: victims are bullied and scared into paying fake debts or ransom.
Remember one thing: no matter what, a legitimate organization will never ask you to pay using iTunes gift cards. You should hang up immediately!
Avoid becoming a victim of extortion scams by recognizing the red flags:
- You receive an unexpected call about an emergency.
- You are being rushed into making a decision or giving personal information.
- You are asked to make an urgent payment using iTunes gift cards.
- Know that these scammers may also turn to other types of payments like another company’s gift card, prepaid credit card or even cryptocurrencies such as bitcoins.
If you are contacted by someone and have any doubts that they may be a scammer, remember this:
- Don’t give out any personal information to the caller.
- Don’t transfer money or codes to anyone that you don’t know and trust.
- Know that even if the phone number looks legit, it doesn’t mean that it is.
- Know that you can block contacts from your phone.
- Take the necessary time to make decisions.
- If you have questions or concerns, contact your local police or the company that produced the gift card.
If you own or manage a retail store where iTunes gift cards are sold, you can help fight these scams. Be on the lookout for customers who:
- purchase more than $1,000 worth of cards,
- look scared or in a hurry, and
- are on the phone or looking at it repeatedly during the transaction.
If you believe a customer might be victim of an extortion scam, tell them about this alert and recommend that they call the police.
If you have been the victim of a scam, contact your financial institution and local police. If you have information about a scam, report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (1-888-495-8501).
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