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An Ontario senior thought he called Geek Squad for help with his printer. Instead, he got scammed out of $25,000

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An Ontario senior’s attempt to get technical help online led him into a spoofing scam where he lost $25,000. Now, he’s sharing his story to warn others.

Charles Gibbs, 83, purchased a printer from his local Best Buy in early April. He was having trouble setting it up, so he decided to look up Geek Squad on Google – an arm of Best Buy with technology professionals available to offer on-demand electronic support.

The Georgetown, Ont., resident said that when he typed ‘Best Buy’ and ‘Geek Squad’ into Google, a website popped up that appeared to be the correct one. It had the Best Buy logo, the address of the closest store to him and a phone number.

But the website was a spoof. Spoofing scams are when criminals disguise information such as email addresses, phone numbers and website URLs to convince a target audience that they are the legitimate source. Oftentimes, spoofing scams look valid at a first glance.

When Gibbs called the number on the website he was surprised to be told there was a refund waiting in his account. 

“I thought that does seem a bit odd, but again it’s Best Buy and Geek Squad and I am the one that found the number and called them” said Gibbs who added that he was told to expect a $349 refund.”

Gibbs was told to process the refund they needed his banking information and when he said he didn’t do online banking they said they would help him set it up.

That’s when the person on the phone said they had made a mistake and had put $10,000 into Gibb’s bank account, money he would have to go to the bank and return to them.

“He said ‘you’re going to have to go to the bank and give this money back and if you don’t you'll be charged with fraud’” said Gibbs.

Gibbs said what followed was a series of trips to his bank and a Bitcoin machine. In the end, Gibbs had been scammed out of $25,000.

“In the end when they said I needed to pay even more money for currency conversion I figured that was enough and I didn’t give them anymore. While it was happening it was almost like I was in a trance and I kept thinking it was me that called Best Buy and Geek Squad and they are reputable companies” said Gibbs.

In a letter to Gibbs, Best Buy said "we are constantly working with law enforcement to counter these attempts at fraud. Those who perpetrate these frauds are from outside of our organization.”

A spokesperson from Best Buy also told CTV News Toronto in a statement “We are grateful to this customer for reporting this incident and we are sorry to hear that he has been a victim of criminal activity. Fraud prevention is a national and global issue and we are working closely with law enforcement and other retailers to tackle it.”

“Best Buy’s Fraud Prevention has a security team working directly with federal law enforcement and other retailers. We have signs on the gift card displays to warn customers of potential fraud and our employees receive training on warning signs for customers who may be victims of a scam.”

The spokesperson also said “If you’re pressured to act quickly, it likely is a scam. Don’t open email attachments or click on links unless you’re certain they’re from legitimate sources. Also, beware of emails and texts that have you ‘verify’ personal information online. Most legitimate companies will never request personal information in this manner, including Best Buy.”

Francis Syms, a technology expert and Associate Dean at Humber College said that criminals are getting better at spoofing websites so they look like the real thing/ 

“It's fairly sophisticated these days. They take you to a fake website and they convince you they are that organization” said Syms. “My recommendation is to always be suspicious, because the scammers are out there and they are working to trick you."

Syms said don’t just Google a company, always go to their official website. 

Gibbs said once he was caught up in the scam it was hard to think clearly and he wanted to share his story to warn others.

"I’m really upset, but my main reason is to make other people know that you've got to be careful going on a website because it could be a scam number” he said. 

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