With more people shopping online during the pandemic, scammers are looking to take advantage.
According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, online merchandise scams are up significantly compared to last year.
In all of 2019, there were 2,500 online merchandise scams reported to the centre, costing Canadians $2.7 million.
However, in 2020, between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, there were already 2,500 complaints filed, to the tune of $7.2 million.
A woman from Sherwood Park, Alta., noticed an ad for Christmas wreaths as she was scrolling through Facebook.
One with a miniature red pickup truck caught her attention, and she decided to buy it for about $40.
“When I got it, I didn’t quite get what I ordered,” Brenda Mackin said.
“I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me?’”
She was disappointed to get a much smaller wreath, about six inches in diameter.
“I was expecting a much bigger, more deluxe sort of wreath, with an actual car in it – because that’s what the photo looked like. Instead I got this scrawny little thing with a piece of cardboard,” she explained.
Mackin didn’t check the fine print for dimensions, but feels the pictures on the site were misleading. She hopes sharing her story encourages others to be wary.
“Just be really careful when you order stuff online. Make sure you know what you’re getting,” she said.
Jeff Thomson is a senior RCMP intelligence analyst at the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
He said merchandise scams are happening “en masse” right now.
“From people not getting anything at all, to people not getting what they ordered, to getting counterfeit goods.”
Thomson encourages shoppers to always trust their gut.
“If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
“If you see greatly discounted products, especially brand-name products, that sell for thousands of dollars, but you’re getting it for a couple hundred, that’s certainly a big red flag,” he said.
He also recommends checking the website and the product’s reviews, as well as the refund policy.
“Do as much due diligence as possible on the products that you’re buying.
“Search it with the word ‘scam’ beside it, search the seller with the word ‘scam’ beside it.”
Another way to protect yourself is to pay using a credit card with fraud protection.
Thomson said it’s important people report these types of incidents to their local police as well.
“If people aren’t reporting, we don’t know what’s happening. We can’t warn other people and we can’t take steps to disrupt the fraudsters.”
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