iTunes gift card scam: Putting retailers to the test
Ross McLaughlin and Sandra Hermiston , CTV Vancouver
Published Wednesday, September 6, 2017 6:00AM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 6, 2017 7:16AM PDT
Kevin Geant’s family is still puzzled how the young man who has autism was able to walk in and out of grocery stores and pharmacies with hundreds and even thousands of dollars in iTunes gift cards.
Kevin was caught up in the iTunes gift card scam, convinced by scammers to hand over the redemption codes on $30,000 worth of cards to get his Facebook account unlocked.
“Kevin is autistic and we need to look after him,” explained Francis Hugh, Geant’s stepbrother.
Over the course of three weeks he made dozens of purchases, sometimes returning to the same store, on the same day, buying hundreds of dollars in iTunes gift cards.
"When somebody walks up and asks for $3,000 in iTunes cards a red flag should go off," said Cpl. Richard de Jong with the North Vancouver RCMP.
Many stores have promised to be on the lookout for customers who may be victims of the scam to try and stop it in its tracks.
Most of the purchases were made at four large retail chains. Kevin spent more than $13,000 at Shoppers Drug Mart stores, $6,900 at Safeway locations, $6,100 at Save-on-Foods and $2,300 at London Drugs.
After many questions and much pressuring from his family, Kevin admitted he was warned about the CRA scam by some clerks at London Drugs, Shoppers Drug Mart and Walmart but he didn’t think that applied to him. In the CRA scam, victims are threatened by someone pretending to be the tax collector to pay up with iTunes gift cards. However, Kevin says he thought he was paying ‘Facebook’ to block hackers.
We alerted Shoppers Drug Mart, Safeway, Save-On-Foods and London drugs about what happened to Kevin and then we put them to the test.
CTV News intern Krystal went to 13 different stores, attempting to buy large amount of iTunes gift cards.
Overall, the majority of retailers CTV tested were on guard, but it appears there’s still some work to be done.
“Some stores were on alert and some stores were not on alert,” said Krystal.
Safeway told us it has signs warning people about the scam and that clerks are trained to be on the lookout.
However, at one Safeway location, Krystal didn’t have any problems trying to buy $900 in iTunes cards. The clerk didn’t bat an eye, until she decided to walk away.
An attempt to purchase $1,000 at another Safeway just prompted a question on how she planned to pay.
And another Safeway cashier rang up $650 without an issue.
"There were no questions asked. I didn't see any signs about any fraud and no one said anything to me," said Krystal.
Other retailers were more responsive when we alerted them and it was reflected in our test.
“It's a fraud don't fall for it," said one London Drugs clerk, when she asked to buy $900 worth of cards.
But another London Drugs clerk never said a word.
“You guys have a sign right here that says it’s a fraud?” asked Krystal.
The clerk was new. At a different London Drugs location a clerk said security measures were in place to block the purchase.
"In the end of the order I'm going to call somebody because I need the override," said the cashier.
"It'll trigger a manager to come over and speak with the customer to make sure they're aware of the potential for scams," said Tony Hunt, London Drugs loss prevention, "We're doing our best to advise them of the danger."
Shoppers Drug Mart stores passed the test too.
"Do not give them anything,” warned a Shoppers Drug Mart cashier.
And all Save-on-Foods stores we tested raised the warning with one directing her to a manager.
"We don't want to sell them to people who are being scammed," explained the manager, “If you’re getting a phone call and you’re being threatened, no, don’t buy the gift cards, it’s a scam.”
Ultimately, it’s still up to the customer if they want to buy the cards. However, we’ve learned some stores are limiting the number of cards they sell in a single transaction.
To learn more about scams, click here.