AMHERST, N.S. – Amherst police are warning people to beware of two phone scams; the iTunes gift card scam, and the grandparent scam.
The warning comes on the heels of two incidents in Amherst whereby one senior, a man, was scammed out of $19,000.
“It was about 200 iTunes gift cards, and they were all worth $100 and $50,” said Const. Tom Wood of the Amherst Police Department.
And another senior, a woman, was scammed out of $8,000.
“In that case, the person claimed to be the grandson and claimed they were in a car accident in Quebec and needed a large sum of money for the hospital bill, and then the victim sent the money to the scammer,” said Wood.
The grandparent scam happened March 3, and it’s thought the iTunes gift card scam happened from November of 2018, to February of 2019.
The circumstances surrounding the iTunes gift card fraud are still unclear, but it’s thought the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) scam was used to defraud the senior out of his money.
Wood says victims of the CRA scam receive a call telling the senior they have overdue taxes and to stay out of legal trouble they need to pay the money back immediately using iTunes gift cards.
“They go and purchase the cards, come back home, scratch the back of the cards and read the numbers to the caller,” said Wood. “Then these criminal groups sell the iTunes card numbers in Canada for a fraction of the price. If it’s a $100 iTunes card, they’ll sell it for $80.”
The numbers can only be used to purchase iTunes products in Canada, but tracking the numbers back to the scammers is almost impossible.
“I have all those cards with the numbers, and I could probably find out who spent them,” said Wood. “It’s going to be people all over the country but, most likely, all those people are going to say they purchased it on a gift card website that they thought was legitimate.”
Wood says victims of the CRA scam are told that if they want to stay out of trouble the transactions must be kept secret.
“They will tell the senior, or whoever, to not talk to family or law enforcement, and it gets them scared.”
Wood says the police department sometimes get calls from stores telling them there’s a senior purchasing large amounts of iTunes gift cards.
“We’ve gone and tried to talk to the senior, and sometimes the senior says, ‘mind your own business, I can do what I want,’” said Wood.
Wood can’t force them not to buy the cards, he can only warn them about the CRA fraud.
“These fraudsters will make them so fearful that when the police tell them it’s a scam they don’t believe us, and they continue to be scammed by the scammers.”
Unlike the CRA scam, the grandparent scam doesn’t prey upon fear; it preys upon compassion.
The Amherst woman who lost $8,000 issued the money in two installments.
Posing as the grandson, in the first call the scammer said he was in a car accident and needed money to pay the hospital bill.
“He then contacted the victim again the next day saying he got a DUI and needed more money for bail,” said Wood.
Amherst has a large senior population, and Wood said it’s up to everybody to protect seniors from phone scams.
“If we see any signs that people are buying iTunes gift cards, they have to either talk to the senior to see if something is happening or contact the police so we can try to prevent them from buying more cards,” said Wood. “Because once they’re on the hook they don’t let them go until their money is totally drained.”