Saanich police are warning of a smartphone scam using knock-off technology after they arrested a seller in a sting operation.
Police were first tipped off to the scam after being contacted by a man, who had used usedvictoria.com to purchase a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 for about $580 from a private seller.
“When the buyer arrived home, he realized certain functions of the phone did not work,” said Sgt. Steve Eassie at a press conference on Tuesday.
The man took the phone to a local phone store and was told the device was likely a knock-off using cheaper technology. The phone was functional and could make calls using a SIM card, but the camera and other built-in Samsung software were missing, Eassie said.
Police then found a similar posting on usedvictoria.com and set up a sting operation. After purchasing a knock-off phone, a 24-year-old Kelowna man was arrested and later released. They found another two knock-off phones in the man’s possession. Samsung officials told Saanich police the knock-off phones were likely only worth about $150.
“We believe there are others to may have fallen prey to this individual,” said Eassie, adding officers found text messages between the seller and other potential buyers. The seller also has ties to Alberta and there could be more victims there, Eassie said.
Eassie suggested buyers who purchase phones online from a private seller verify the phone’s serial number using online “Black lists” set up by mobile providers to ensure the phone hasn’t been reported lost or stolen.
“In this case, the serial number was actually a fake,” Eassie said. “You can also bring the phone in to Future Shop or another retailer, and those guys are pretty good at figuring out if it’s authentic.”
Usedvictoria.com recommends buyers and sellers meet in person, in a public place and with a friend whenever completing sales.