Male users of a popular communications and dating app are being warned of a scam in which they are asked to provide iTunes gift cards along with the activation codes with the promise their money will be reimbursed.
On July 6, a victim walked into 52 Division to report he was the victim of fraud by individuals using WeChat, a mobile text and voice messaging communication service also used to meet people online.
The app is predominantly used by members of the Chinese community.
At a press conference outside 52 Division on July 9, Detective Constable Robert Stibbe provided details of how the victim was scammed.
“The victim provided a large quantity of Apple gift cards to an unknown person on WeChat,” said Stibbe. “He gave the gift card codes to these unknown people with the promise he would receive a prostitute for sexual favours. This never happened.
“Once the large amount of gift cards reached a certain limit, the unknown suspects would promise to meet the individual and give them their money back. This, again, never took place and the victim was advised to give more money with another promise that when it reached another level, they would meet and the money would be returned. The meeting didn’t take place and this is when he came to us. The other reason why he made a report was that he and his family were threatened with bodily harm.”
Stibbe said this is the second similar occurrence in the Division.
“We have had some occurrences in the north end of the city, but this scam is more prevalent in Vancouver,” he said.
Stibbe reminded consumers to be diligent when engaging in financial transactions using social media apps.
“You obviously don’t know who you are talking to. It can be a man disguising his voice to be a woman,” he said. The other thing is that the fraudster may be in another part of the world because of the way social media is and they can change locations.
“Fraudsters take advantage of modern communication tools to avoid any face-to-face contact with victims. They use fictitious names, addresses and identities to avoid apprehension by law enforcement. Often, they register phone numbers, websites and e-mail accounts with fictitious information and locations.”
The 52 Division officer and his unit are working with Apple to identify the fraudsters.
“We are hoping to get that in another few weeks and then we will proceed from there,” he said.
Stibbe believes there are more victims in the Toronto area and he’s advising them to call 416-808-5206 and talk to 52 Division plainclothes unit officers.
“We will take a report, start an investigation and move on from there,” he said.
Anyone with information can also or leave a tip on Facebook, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477), online at 222tips.com, text TOR and your message to CRIMES (274637). Download the free Crime Stoppers Mobile App on iTunes, Google Play or Blackberry App World.