The RCMP is urging the public to be wary of phone scams after residents in Whistler and Pemberton were reportedly flooded with calls in the past week and, in some cases, defrauded out of large sums of money.
In a release, police said they had received multiple reports of individuals receiving phone calls from callers demanding money, often to avoid prosecution or arrest. The scammers have posed as representatives from the Canada Revenue Agency, banks, local businesses, the Canada Border Service Agency, police, and Service Canada, Mounties said.
Typically, the callers claim the victim is required to pay a debt in order to avoid prosecution, arrest, leans, stoppage of benefits, deportation or to correct a poor credit rating, and demand payment in Bitcoin or via Visa or Google pay cards, although police said the scammers will often request any type of gift card as payment. The caller will commonly have the victim purchase a large quantity of cards, peel off the security covers and provide the number.
No government agency, bank or local business will contact people by phone and demand they purchase gift cards to settle any alleged debt or to avoid prosecution.
While the majority of recipients in the past week “made the correct choice by providing no personal information or hanging up,” police said some victims have been defrauded out of thousands of dollars.
“The Whistler RCMP are warning all residents that if any caller claiming to be a government agency, bank or business reaches out to you unsolicited to take caution, provide no personal information, ask questions and to take the time to confirm the caller’s information,” police said in the release. “In some of the cases, the caller will offer to transfer you to an investigating officer; however, they are only passing the phone to another scammer. If you have any suspicion as to the validity of the caller hang up, look up the number to the agency they claim to work for yourself and make a call to confirm. Any legitimate government agency or business will not object to you phoning back to confirm the caller’s information.”
Phone scams have grown more common and sophisticated in recent years, with scammers often employing a method called “spoofing” that masks the origin of their call, showing up as a recognizable local number. In 2018, a local server was defrauded out of $10,000 after a caller posing as a CRA agent threatened prosecution. More recently, in February, a Whistlerite 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,” police said at the time. The victim was then told they needed to speak to a police officer, and were transferred to someone who falsely identified themselves as a member of the local detachment, even going so far as to mask the number so it appeared as “Whistler RCMP” on the call display.