A scam involving transit cards is moving faster than you can say, “Presto, change-o.”
Metrolinx says 1,100 Presto cards were stolen from a third-party vendor on Dec. 27 and may soon pop up on classifieds sites like Kijiji or Craigslist advertising the cards as pre-loaded with hundreds of dollars and being sold for cheap.
The problem for consumers is there’s no way of identifying whether the card is part of the scam until their money is gone and it no longer works because the seller removes the funds they put on the card.
“Each card has an identifying number and we can identify the card and put a block on it,” said Metrolinx Anne Marie Aikins. “It’s a scam where they’ll say ‘I have a Presto card that has $400 on it, but I’m moving, so I’ll sell it to you for $300’ and if the card has been registered, then when the person buys it, the original seller then cancels the card and the person is out the money.”
The cards that were stolen were initially valued at $20 — $6 for the card and $14 in rides.
There’s no way for a consumer to tell which card has the 1,100 affected barcodes, Aikins said. The only way to protect yourself is to buy from an authorized seller. Even if the seller can prove there is money on the card, they can take the buyer’s money and then go home, log into the account and transfer the funds out.
“The message they’ll get when they use those cards is ‘to go speak to customer service,’” she said. “It takes a couple of hours before it cancels, so you may get a ride out of it and think you’re home free. That’s why we wanted to put an alert out to the public and the message is fairly simple: not to buy a card from an unauthorized dealer.”
“If you think you’re getting a good deal, you’re likely not,” she added.
Aikins said they don’t have stats on the number of Presto cards affected in similar scams in general, however, that may be because people are embarrassed they got duped or think they may be in trouble.
“I wouldn’t say Carte Blanche they wouldn’t get in trouble — if you knowingly purchase a stolen card, then you’ve committed a crime,” she said. “If you fell for a scam, then no, not necessarily. It’s case-by-case.”
Toronto Police said so far no arrests have been made.
Read the full story over at the Toronto Sun.
This story was summarized by Canadian Fraud News Inc.