North Vancouver RCMP warn about fake smartphones being sold to unwitting buyers

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      While Vancouverties on a budget may be searching for the best prices for smartphones, sometimes you get what you pay for—or even far, far less.

      Although many online sales may seem tempting, RCMP are alerting citizens about a recent trend of fake smartphones that are being sold to unaware buyers.

      Thus far this year, North Vancouver RCMP have already seized 15 counterfeit smartphones that look like the real deal.

      According to North Vancouver RCMP, buyers often first connect online with seller who claims to be reselling a name-brand smartphone at an attractive price that is below market value.

      The seller will often offer a convincing explanation about why they are reselling the phone at a discounted price instead of returning it the place of purchase.

      The seller will then schedule an appointment with the buyer to meet in a public place with the phone to complete the transaction.

      The lengths to which the seller will provide fake details can be quite thorough and convincing, including packaging and receipts.

      North Vancouver’s Economic Crime Unit Cpl. Alex Bojic explains in a news release that these phone appear “extremely realistic looking” and usually are “vacuum sealed in what appears to be authentic packaging, complete with a bar code from a local business and a matching receipt”.

      North Vancouver RCMP Sgt. Doug Trousdell explained to the Georgia Straight that these phones are basic shells that only have the minimum amount of software to make them appear as if they are legimate products but don't actually function as they aren't real phones.

      Accordingly, while the contents inside the package will usually appear to be authentic, it won’t be until the buyer tries to use the phone itself that they will become aware that something is wrong.

      “If the buyer opens the package, they’ll find the phone comes with all of the components, accessories, and manuals,” Cpl. Bojic stated in a news release. “The phone powers up as normal to a home screen that looks legit. It’s only after the buyer takes the phone home and starts opening individual settings and applications that they’ll realize something is up.”

      There's another potential risk when buying these devices from an unknown seller—the seller may have loaded the phone with malware (or malicious software), which can secretly relay private or security data and information from the buyer back to the seller.

      Anyone who has been the victim of fake smartphone scams should contact local police.

      More information about online shopping fraud, including online auction fraud, can be found at the RCMP website.