It’s one thing to hear about common scams — it’s another to recognize it when it happens to you. To help you spot the warning signs of fraud, we share real-life stories of the types of scams we encounter at SCU every day. To protect the identities of those involved, names and details of this story have been changed. As you read the story, try to identify what type of fraud occurred and catch the red flags of the scam.
After 20 years of family camping trips, John and Louise decided it was time to sell their RV.
It had served them well, but the retired couple decided to use the money from the sale of the RV for a renovation they were planning. Naturally, they turned to Kijiji. Louise had sold items through the online marketplace in the past, so a few pictures and a quick description later, the camper was listed. It wasn’t long before they received a message from a buyer named Amanda.
Amanda was thrilled about the RV, and told John and Louise it would be great for all of the family trips she was planning for the summer. She offered to put a deposit down so they would hold it for her.
True to her word, a cheque arrived in the mail a few days later — for an amount much higher than they had agreed upon. When Louise messaged Amanda about this, she said it had been a mistake, and asked them to send the extra funds back to her via an Interac e-Transfer†.
The next day, John and Louise stopped at an SCU branch to deposit the cheque. When they handed the cheque to the teller, she asked them where they had received it. As the couple explained the situation, the teller noted a few red flags with the cheque:
The cheque location: The teller pointed out to John and Louise that the cheque was coming from an unknown business, rather than from Amanda’s personal account. It was also strange that the couple had received the cheque from an American address.
The cheque’s mobile deposit request: When the teller flipped the cheque around, she found a note on the back that said, “mobile deposit only,” which the couple hadn’t noticed earlier. The teller explained that scammers will often make this request, so victims don’t bring the cheque to tellers, who are trained to look for signs of fraud.
The cheque amount: The teller advised the couple to be wary of any requests to send back money — especially through an Interac e-Transfer. If the cheque turns out to be fraudulent, the scammer will have already moved the money from account to account, or withdrawn the funds, leaving nothing to recover. As the sellers, they should be the ones receiving money, not sending it.
While this serves as a precautionary tale for anyone selling items online, the teller also recommended the couple use caution as buyers. Fraud is common across all online marketplaces, including Kijiji, VarageSale, and Facebook Marketplace. Scammers will often sell fake items, especially those that are in high demand, at extremely discounted prices (there’s a lot of fake puppies and gaming consoles on the market right now). Then, once the buyer makes a deposit, the address turns out to be fake. It’s a good idea to check the seller’s reviews to see if anyone else has bought an item from them.
What happens at SCU
Because John and Louise had decided to deposit the cheque at a branch, the teller was able to spot the warning signs before Amanda was able to take any of their money. The couple was still unsure if the cheque was fraudulent, so the teller recommended that they wait to transfer any money until the cheque went through. Sure enough, the cheque bounced a few days later.
In this case, the couple was able to catch the fraud. But many others aren’t as fortunate. That’s why anyone who encounters this scam should report the incident to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC). The CAFC helps raise awareness of what types of fraud are happening, so they, in turn, can educate others. In addition, if a scammer has reached out to you, they’re likely also targeting others. That’s why you should report the user to the online marketplace administrators.
Key takeaway: Scammers are creative, and will use all kinds of platforms to trick their victims. Whether you’re buying or selling an item, be sure to stop and ask yourself if their story makes sense.
In addition, you can learn more about online shopping scams on CAFC’s website.
Does this story sound familiar?
If this has happened to you, or someone you know, here’s how you can report it.