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Caller posing as police officer scams Whistlerite out of thousands of dollars

Like rest of Canada, Whistler has seen recent rise in phone scams

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A caller posing as a local police officer scammed a Whistlerite out of “thousands of dollars” this month, according to the RCMP.

In a release, Mounties said they were advised of the con on Feb. 4 after the victim reportedly received a call from a 1-800 number “falsely advising that a social insurance number had been compromised and someone was committing criminal acts using their name and number.” The victim was then told they needed to speak to a police officer, and the call was transferred to someone who falsely identified themselves as a member of the local detachment. The transfer number was masked and showed up as “Whistler RCMP” on call display, police said.

The impersonating officer also knew the victim’s address and advised that “they would be arrested in the afternoon unless they complied with directions,” the release said. To avoid arrest, the caller instructed the victim to deposit money into a local Bitcoin machine using a provided QR code. They were then told to purchase a number of Google Play gift cards and provide the security numbers listed on the back.

A similar incident involving a caller masking their display number as the Whistler RCMP occurred in October, but in that case, the individual hung up and called police before any money was exchanged.

A local server who received a similar call in the spring of 2018 wasn’t so fortunate, and ended up sending nearly $10,000 in Bitcoin to scammers posing as CRA agents.

Following a national trend, Staff Sgt. Paul Hayes said in a follow-up call that these types of scams have been on the rise locally.

“One of the big headline stories last year involved scams and frauds, not just specific to Whistler, but in general. There are huge losses across Canada as a result of scams and frauds like this,” he said.

In 2018, Whistler ranked 188th Canada-wide in fraud, with a rate of 253.29 reported instances per 100,000, below the national average of 349.2. Even still, the resort saw more than double the number of incidents (87) compared to the year before (42).

According to a report by Swedish think tank Truecaller, Canada is one of the countries most affected by scam calls, finishing just outside the top 10 worst countries worldwide. The report said that nuisance calls increased by 18 per cent globally in 2019.

This type of con is mostly a numbers game, Hayes noted, with callers attempting to dupe “hundreds or thousands of people in order to get someone to fall for their scam.”

The RCMP will never demand anyone pay Bitcoin or purchase gift cards to deal with a police matter. If you doubt the validity of a caller claiming to be a police officer, the Whistler RCMP advises not to provide any personal information and to call the police yourself and ask to speak to the officer in question.

“If it is truly a police officer, then we have no problem with people doing those sorts of things to confirm who they’re speaking to,” Hayes added.