Two cannabis retailers share stories of strange scam calls, concerns with connections to robberies

Two cannabis retailers are sounding the alarm about a scam that appears to be targeting cannabis stores in Canada.

David Brown | Stratcann

On March 30, Ryan Roch, the owner of Lake City Cannabis in Alberta, with two locations in the Calgary area, says he had someone contact both locations seeking information about the store.

Although he says at first it seemed like a typical scam call, some of the details they provided, as well as the types of questions they were asking, raised some concerns. 

After first calling, Roch says he received a text message asking for pictures from inside the store, of their exits, and of the entire layout. 

“At first I thought it was a scammer, but then it seemed like it was in preparation for a robbery, especially the detail about the intricate layouts of the store,” Roch explained. “That was disconcerting.”

Text message screen shot.

Cannabis stores in Canada, especially Ontario and Alberta, have been experiencing many robberies and break-ins in the past few years. Ontario has seen a recent string of late-night break-ins and Roch and others in Alberta have raised concerns about robberies there, too.

Although the person on the phone was speaking quite fast in a heavy accent with a lot of background noise as if they were working in a call centre, Roch says he was surprised with some of the details the caller provided in regard to various regulations in Canada. Although he wasn’t fooled, he says he could see it catching someone off guard.

Roch contacted the Calgary police as well as RCMP who both visited the store and took reports from the store owner. He then shared his experience online to help warn other retailers. 

In response to his post on Twitter, Jennawae McLean, the co-owner of Calyx + Trichomes Cannabis in Kingston, Ontario shared that she had a similar experience a few weeks earlier. 

McLean says that someone first called one of her two locations in Kingston on a Sunday when she and her partner were not on site. The person was asking for information on bills the company had paid when another employee contacted Jennawae to ask about the situation, alerting her to what was happening. 

The same caller then texted the employee claiming to be McLean offering them a bonus if they paid a certain bill in time. 

Since the person seemed to be asking her employee to pay a bill, she chalked the issue up to typical bill scammers and didn’t think much of it, she explains. But when she saw Roch’s own tweet, she wanted to share her experience, too. 

“Honestly, I thought it was just another Hydro One scam, but when I saw Ryan’s tweet, I realized maybe there was more going on. It definitely seems like it’s coming from the same group.”

Tweets between Lake City Canna and Calyx + Trichomes

Since then, she and her partner have met with staff and clarified that staff would never get any instructions from them unless it was from their own phone number, and highlighted the need to be extra vigilant for these kinds of calls. 

She says she hasn’t heard of any other retailers running into this issue but wants to make sure others are aware it might come to their store, too. 

“Hopefully someone doesn’t fall victim,” she continues. “It just felt really violating, that feeling of somebody impersonating you.”

“It’s one of these things, it’s happening to me in Ontario, it’s happening to Ryan in Alberta. It’s the same scam. We’re all targets.”

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