Scam Targeting WA Cannabis Retailers and Employees

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) issued the following e-mail advising cannabis retailers and employees via e-mail this morning.

The WSLCB is alerting cannabis licensees about a scam that has been making the rounds in our state. In areas where this scam has occurred, local law enforcement is involved. You are urged to be aware and share this information with your employees.

Over the past year, a number of cannabis shop employees have fallen victim to a text scam. This scam has been coined as a “Fire Extinguisher Scam.” Store employees are contacted via text message by a suspect over a text message, via spoofed phone numbers, making it appear the text is coming from the store owner’s attorney or even the owners themselves.

Because the cannabis store employees truly believe they are communicating directly with the owner of the shop or their attorney, they have fallen for the scam. The scammer typically tells the store employee that an “inspector” from a government entity is planning on coming to the store to verify the fire extinguishers are in compliance. The scammer will have the employee send pics of the extinguishers, exit signs, business licenses and other regulatory items. Then, through a series of text messages, the victim is requested to bring a large sum of money to a location where it’s handed off to someone the employee does not know. In other instances of this type of scam, the scammers have asked for money for “emergency surgeries” for a cannabis business owner’s son, money to pay for a license fee and various other untrue stories.

These scams are typically conducted over Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).  VOIP is a technology that allows users to make voice calls using a broadband internet connection instead of a regular (analog) telephone line. To learn about how VoIP services work, visit the Federal Communications Commission’s website.

If you have knowledge of one of your employees either being contacted or falling victim to this scam, please contact local law enforcement agency to report the incident, and notify your WSLCB Enforcement officer.

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