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Credit card scam targets local farm supply stores

Stores in Smithers, Telkwa, Houston and Burns Lake stores scammed out of thousands of dollars
This Aug. 11, 2019 file photo shows Visa credit cards in New Orleans. The Vermilion RCMP is warning of a new credit card scam making the rounds. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)

Farm supply stores across northern B.C. have lost thousands of dollars in a sophisticated credit card scam.

Smithers Feed and Bulkley Valley Home Centre in Telkwa were both targeted.

“We’re left hanging with around a $650 bill, and there’s really not much we can do about,” said Smithers Feed co-owner Doug Veenstra.

In the fall, sometime in September or October, a woman attempted to purchase some farm supplies by tapping with her phone. The tap did not go through, so she entered her credit card information manually.

She purchased a few supplies, mostly pig and goat feed, and brought them out of the parking lot. After she was finished loading the items into her car, she came back to the store to purchase more items.

About a month later, Smithers Feed recieved a call from Moneris with a chargeback. A chargeback occurs when a customer disputes their purchase, requesting a reverse in payment. Veenstra soon found out the card number used was stolen from a woman in the Lower Mainland, and the suspect is believed to be targetting farm supply stores in the northern region.

Veenstra said that manual credit card purchases are “very normal” for Smithers Feed customers.

“We get people that call in quite often from out of town and say, ‘hey, somebody’s coming through, can we get you know, this and that? Put it aside, here’s my credit card number,’ we key it in and it’s approved right away.”

In his 20 years with Smithers Feed, Veenstra has never witnessed a scam like this. He never asks for customers’ ID, because he is trusting of his customer base.

“It’s the nice North, where everybody expects everybody to be honest I suppose,” he said.

In an agreement with Moneris, to use their terminals, businesses are required to ask for ID for manual purchases. Because no one asked for ID, Smithers Feed will not be compensated by Moneris or any other banking institutions.

In addition to Smithers Feed and Bulkley Valley Home Centre, at least two other farm supply stores were similarly targeted. About $1,100 in farm gates and feed was stolen from P&B Feeds and Needs in Burns Lake. The Bulkley Valley Home Centre in Houston also took a significant hit, when the scammer stole $5,000 worth of gates and fence posts.

The other businesses gave a similar subject description to what was captured on camera: a woman in her 30s to 40s with a heavy build, long brown hair and black-rimmed glasses. In most of the descriptions she was carrying a large purse or backpack.

Veenstra noted items purchased didn’t raise any suspicion as most of them had no street value, except a piece of jewellery.

“There was some goat and pig feed, which is kind of unusual, that would indicate that actually they’ve probably got some livestock somewhere in the area.”

RCMP Corporal Madonna Saunderson confirmed the Smithers and New Hazelton detachments have ongoing investigations on the issue, but did not provide specific details.

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About the Author: Morgan Powell, Local Journalism Initiative

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