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Here are some tips to avoid falling victim to e-commerce scams

E-commerce scams are on the rise; Police urge people to do their homework first
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Members of the Ontario Provincial Police Anti-Rackets Branch, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and Ontario's Serious Fraud Office say E-commerce scams are rising as more people use technology to buy and sell goods. 

Using the internet has certainly made e-commerce more convenient for consumers but has increased the likelihood of victimization by fraud. Consumers and merchants need to be vigilant when purchasing or selling online. Combined CAFC statistics estimate losses of $6.3 million Canada-wide in 2018.

Before buying or selling with technology, ensure you are familiar with the person or company with whom you are doing business.

Do your homework by independently verifying who they are. Some online research could help you verify or identify previous complaints that may have been reported through a company website. 

Verify any information that is offered. If there isn't enough detail provided, ask for more information to satisfy all of your concerns.

Remember…time is on your side as most purchases or sales are not urgent. If a sale occurs, verify the payment has been made. If the amount is in excess of the agreed upon price, it is likely a scam.

Sellers should be cautious of shipping any merchandise before payment has been received and confirmed to be legitimate. Ultimately, it is the purchaser's and vendor's responsibility to verify a transaction. 

Investigators have seen an increase in "Card Not Present" scams which target merchants. The SFO relates an incident about an entrepreneur who opened an online business to sell electronic devices and parts. Taking precautions, the business owner used a popular bank's security feature to process credit card payments.

Unfortunately, products were purchased by suspects using bogus credit cards that were approved by the bank's security feature. The vendor didn't wait long enough to confirm the payment was real and, as a result, the items were shipped.

Once the fraudulent purchase occurred, the additional security measures protected the owner -- but the purchases continued unabated. After only three months, the owner was forced to shut down his website, sustaining losses of approximately $50,000 worth of merchandise and refunds.

How to protect yourself:

  • Check reviews on the seller. Look for reports of bad experiences;
  • Deal directly with reputable companies or individuals;
  • Verify the seller's information - is the phone number or email address legitimate?
  • Beware of pop-ups that direct you away from the original page;
  • Read the terms and conditions to better understand the payment options, return policy and warranty;
  • Verify if you have fraud coverage on the payment method you are using; and,
  • If your company is receiving funds, wait until the payment clears your bank or credit card account before shipping the item.

If you or someone you know suspect they've been a victim of an E-commerce Scam, contact your financial services company and your local police service. 

You can also file a complaint through the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website  or by phone at 1-888-495-8501.