Victoria police warning of gift card scam involving gaming service

Victoria police are warning the public about a scam involving gift cards associated with an online video game service.

Police have received two recent reports of scams involving Steam Wallet gift cards, which are available for purchase online and through retailers. The cards can be redeemed only for Steam merchandise such as video games, software and hardware.

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In one instance, reported Aug. 4, a scammer persuaded someone who was trying to sell a vehicle online to buy Steam Wallet gift cards from an independent retailer. The scammer then asked the person to email them photos of the number on the back of the cards, giving the scammer the ability to redeem the cards.

The interactions between the two parties took place over a number of weeks, according to Bowen Osoko, communications co-ordinator for Victoria police. Police are not releasing the amount of money lost in this case.

“The scammers were super sophisticated. It was really quite elaborate,” Osoko said.

In a second incident, reported on Aug. 8, a scammer compromised a local business person’s email. The scammer then used the email to tell an employee to buy gift cards, something the business does often.

The employee did not suspect anything was wrong until they were asked to purchase Steam Wallet cards and share the number on the back of the cards. The employee started to share the details, but decided to confirm the request with the business owner in person.

“It started to not feel right, and as soon as it didn’t feel right, they went out of the communication they were in,” Osoko said. “They went and found another way of communicating — vital to breaking the scam loop.”

They lost just under $2,000.

Osoko said scammers are often running several scams at once, and aren’t necessarily operating locally, or even within Canada.

To avoid falling victim to such scams, Victoria police warn against buying gift cards in order to make money through an online sale and advises the public not to share the codes on the back of gift cards. Scammers will often create a sense of urgency to persuade people to do something they wouldn’t normally do.

Anyone who thinks they might be the victim of a scam should call their local police department.

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com

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