Ottawa small business out $70,000 of personal protective equipment after suspected fraud
OTTAWA -- An Ottawa small business says they are out $70,000 worth of personal protective equipment as a result of what appears to be fraud.
Orleans Janitorial Supplies sold an order of gloves totalling $99,971 to what they thought was the Gatineau Hospital. It turns out it wasn’t.
The order was picked up but what appeared to be a certified cheque to pay for it was fake.
Company manager Micheal Bullard says when owner Andrew Bascoe took the cheque to his local bank the bank told him it “wasn’t worth the paper it’s written on.”
Bascoe contacted the Ottawa police immediately and filed a police report. Police confirm to CTV News Ottawa that a complaint has been received and is being investigated by the Fraud Unit. The Gatineau Hospital also tells CTV News Ottawa that they have never done business with Orleans Janitorial Supplies.
“I’m going to be totally honest with you, it could break us,” Bullard tells CTV News Ottawa.
He says he spent a week e-mailing back and forth, and the sale seemed to be normal.
“In my mind, if it was a scam, he would’ve accepted our prices immediately but it was a back and forth negotiation,” he recalls.
“This individual described himself as the accountant for the Hull-Gatineau hospital and he asked us to provide them with a price for the gloves that they needed. He stated that he wasn’t able to get them anywhere else because most suppliers were out,” says Bullard.
It wasn’t until Bascoe took the cheque to the bank that he found out he could be out tens of thousands of dollars, “I think the teller was actually stunned themselves,” says Bascoe. “A small guy losing $70,000, that’s a big chunk.”
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre says businesses are frequently targeted with what they call “sale of merchandise” scams.
“Typically in these scams, the business receives a fraud payment either in the form of a counterfeit financial instrument or often times with stolen of compromised credit cards (a.k.a. card-not-present fraud) or, even in some cases, the orders are made using purchase orders which never get paid at all,” a Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre spokesperson says.
The RCMP told CTV News on Tuesday that, as of Oct. 31, more than six million dollars has been lost nationwide due to COVID-19 related fraud.
"Since COVID-19 began, fraud reports have increased by 29 per cent as of Oct. 31. Fraudsters continue to exploit the COVID-19 outbreak by preying on people's insecurities," the Mounties said in an email. "Between March 6, 2020 and Oct. 31, 2020, there have been 6,836 Canadian reports of COVID-19 fraud, with 5,411 Canadian victims and over $6.6 million lost to COVID-19 fraud."
Orleans Janitorial Supplies has reached out to its insurance company, but they are unsure if this is covered. Bullard is sharing the story as a warning to other small businesses,
“I would just ask them, 'why did you contact a smaller mom and pop store like this?'”
Learn more about COVID-19 related scams at https://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/features-vedette/2020/covid-19-eng.htm