By Bryn Karcha
A teen in Halifax has been arrested in connection with a stream of frauds.
The 19-year-old man has been charged with fraud under $5,000, unauthorized use of credit card and theft under $5,000.
“This is something we’ve seen in the past, around Christmas time,” said Const. Pierre Bourdages of the Halifax Regional Police. “With this individual, we believe all the occurrences have been within the last month.”
Police were tipped off by an increase in this kind of fraud. The suspect would purchase a large number of gift cards using a fake credit card. When the card was declined, the suspect would tell the cashier that the card was over its limit and would provide an authorization code that would complete the transaction. This manual override would generate a receipt, thereby activating the gift cards.
The store wouldn’t be aware of the fraud, until the credit card company told them a few days later. Credit card companies don’t cover these losses because it involves the manual override on the point of sale machine.
Members of the HRP/RCMP Integrated Financial Crime Unit identified the man using video surveillance and information from at least one witness from the affected stores. He was arrested at his home on March 24th. He’s out on bail.
The suspect, who is known to police, targeted numerous stores.
“It’s all over HRM. As far as we can tell right now there’s no rhyme or reason. It’s Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford, it’s really all over,” said Bourdages. “We have over a dozen similar files being investigated. So, we are expecting more charges.”
Daniel Williams, a representative for the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, said credit card scams are quite common, though the centre doesn’t track in-person frauds.
“It’s not that it isn’t being done wide scale, but it’s not something in our databases,” Williams said.
Williams said the Anti-Fraud Centre deals with phone or internet credit card fraud. One common scheme is for retailers to receive a large product order paid by credit card. The fraudster would request that the retailer withdraw additional money and send it by Western Union to a false shipping company, which would then be picked up by fraudsters using a fake ID.
Police have released a list of ways for store owners and clerks to be mindful of this type of fraud:
- Be wary of a customer who is overly helpful or knowledgeable about manual override procedures involving point of sale transactions, especially when it involves a significant purchase.
- Be diligent in confirming that a credit card is valid, and train your staff appropriately.
- When in doubt, contact the credit card issuers to confirm the validity of the card.
- Ask for ID when in doubt and be mindful that fraudsters often carry counterfeit ID which may not reflect their real names.
- If you do not feel confident about the validity of a credit card, refuse to process the transaction.
- Be aware that you may be liable for losses incurred when a manual override is used.
Anyone who suspects that they are a victim of fraud should contact the Halifax Regional Police Fraud Unit at 490-1985 or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.
Const. Pierre Bourdages talks about the fraud and investigation.