REGINA -- The Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Saskatchewan is warning the public about a scam involving gift cards after a Good Samaritan stopped a woman from purchasing thousands in gift cards.

The incident happened at a big-box store in North Regina in February.

The man who told the woman about the scam – who wished to remain anonymous – said he overheard her trying to buy $2,000 worth of gift cards but her credit card kept getting denied.

The man said the woman was talking on a cellphone and he asked her if she knew the person on the other line.

He found out the elderly woman's computer locked her out earlier in the day and a phone number appeared on her screen. She called the number and the person told her to send them $2,000 worth of gift cards or they would charge $6,000 to her cell phone. 

"These guys are pros," the man said. "They give you a story and they gather little clues as to who you bank with…just from simple questions, they can get that personal information from you.”

The man said he convinced the lady to go to her bank to have the situation sorted out. He said he wanted to help the woman because it was the right thing to do.

"It was just my conscience and knowing [an] innocent person was going to be ripped off," the man said. "If I could avoid that happening to her, that was my goal. I'm not looking for any rewards or gifts or anything. It was just helping her out.”

The BBB said gift card scams are becoming an increasing concern. It said people are doing more shopping and scammers are having an easier time gathering information.

"Legitimate businesses don't use gift cards as a method of accepting payments," Karen Smith, BBB Saskatchewan CEO, said. 

The BBB said in 2020, consumers reported a loss of $3 million to scams throughout Canada. The bureau said in 2017, 2018 and 2019, consumers reported a loss of more than $1 million.

The BBB said the amount of money being lost tripling in 2020 speaks to how consumer habits have changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's because folks are at home," Smith said. "We're working from home. And when you have a break instead of going to the watercooler and have a chat with a co-worker, you might now be doing some online shopping. Whenever that happens, we know that scammers are looking at their targets."

Smith said it's important to report any scams to the BBB to inform others of ways scammers are targetting people.

"We know that the gift cards are being used for all kinds of scams," Smith said. "It doesn't matter whether they're pretending to be a government agency, whether it's online shopping ads or any social media ads."