A Coquitlam family is warning people to beware of a scammer who is approaching people at bus stops asking to exchange a cheque for cash.
Coquitlam RCMP were not available to to confirm whether the fraud that reportedly took place at about 9:30 p.m. Aug. 3 at a bus stop on Kitchener Avenue in Port Coquitlam was an isolated incident or an ongoing scam.
But the teenager who was bilked of $400 may not get his money back because he voluntarily withdrew the cash.
Still, his sister is hoping that by spreading the word other people won’t fall victim to the crime.
“We’re just so frustrated and flabbergasted that this would happen and that someone would think it’s OK to do this. That’s why we want it out there,” the woman, who asked that neither she nor her brother be identified, told The Tri-City News.
The incident took place as the 16-year-old was waiting for the bus after work. He was approached by a man who gave the youth a hard-luck story about needing cash and offering to exchange a cheque for money via the teen’s ATM.
The boy, not knowing that cheques can bounce, be stolen or fraudulent, did as the man asked, withdrawing the cash from his bank after witnessing the cheque being accepted by the bank machine. It was only a few days later that the boy noticed the funds were missing and the cheque didn’t clear.
“He was confused about the money that was missing. He didn’t realize that cheques could bounce and this could be an issue,” his sister said. “He was the perfect target."
It turns out the cheque itself was stolen from someone in Quebec.
The family has filed a police report and spoken to the bank, and the hope is that CCTV footage will reveal the identify of the suspect.
Bruce Cran, president of the Consumers’ Association of Canada, said the boy learned a tough lesson that will last him a lifetime, even if he doesn’t get his money back.
“I feel really sorry for the kid who thinks he’s helping someone out,” said Cran, who said young people should be taught in school how to avoid scams and frauds that have become so prevalent. “These are street smarts you need to survive in this world.”
His association receives many calls from people who have been victimized in scams, with people who are the most vulnerable, seniors for example, and occasionally young people, targeted the most.
“He needed instilled in him the ability to be suspicious of it and to walk way,” Cran said.
Fraud is one of the most common crimes, according to the RCMP, and vulnerable Canadians are among those targeted by scams. “The best way to fight these types of crime is through awareness,” according to the Mounties.
For information on current scams, visit the RCMP website at www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/scams-fraudes. The Consumers’ Association of Canada is also available to take your call at 604-418-8359.