With the puck set to drop on the Stanley Cup playoffs and the city once again swept up in hockey fever, Vancouver police are warning the public about a pair of scams that duped several Canucks fans last year.
The police department held a news conference Tuesday to urge fans not to purchase tickets from strangers over the Internet. The force also released details about a scam in which people posed as downtown parking lot attendants and collected money from unsuspecting drivers.
The Canucks begin their latest quest for their first Stanley Cup in franchise history Wednesday night. The home date with the Los Angeles Kings will mark Vancouver's first playoff game since last June's riot. No massive street parties are planned this time around and Vancouver police say they "will not be showing any leniency" when it comes to mischief and public drinking.
Constable Lindsey Houghton, the department's spokesman, said the force gets complaints every year during the playoffs from people who've been defrauded while trying to purchase tickets online. He said most of the fraud suspects live in another country, such as the U.S. or Britain, and buyers are commonly asked to use Western Union to transfer the money.
"Fraud victims believe they are being diligent by using the Internet to research the name and address of the person they are sending the cash, believing they can send the police to the exact same address if the deal goes sour," Constable Houghton told reporters.
"The problem is that fraud suspects are savvy to this and will give a false name and address they find on the Internet."
Constable Houghton said as long as the fraudster has the wire transfer number, he or she is still able to pick up the cash.
He said tickets should only be purchased from a legitimate resale business. Police will only be able to recover money if the buyer used a credit card through that legitimate business.
Constable Houghton could not say exactly how many Canucks fans fell victim to online scams during the team's run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final last year.
The police force's message of caution was echoed by the Better Business Bureau, which advised the public to look for firms that provide buyer protection, including money-back guarantees. The bureau also said fans should contact them to check on a ticket broker's credibility, use brokers with a storefront address, and ask to see a receipt so the tickets can be verified as authentic.
In the parking lot scam, Constable Houghton said scammers went so far last year as to wear orange reflective vests at the entrance to the unmanned lots.
"They hold cash and parking tickets to look legitimate and tell people that they're attendants for the lot and are able to give you a ticket for cash," he said.
"In exchange for the cash, they will usually give an expired ticket or no ticket at all, and if questioned about it they'll reassure the driver that they're the attendant for the lot and not to worry about it. The trusting buyers later return to their vehicles to see they have been issued a parking ticket."
The City of Vancouver announced last month it would be decentralizing Stanley Cup playoff celebrations and sprinkling them across the city. The plan would only take effect if the team reaches the third round of the playoffs.
Those heading downtown Wednesday will have to find room at a bar or restaurant – there will be no outdoor televisions broadcasting the game.
Constable Houghton said police will have a visible presence.
"We certainly know that downtown Vancouver will be a destination for people despite there being no public celebration sites, nothing public going on," he said.
"The warning to people: If you are looking to come downtown to cause trouble, we will be there waiting for you and we will not be showing any leniency this year if you're looking to cause mischief."