Crimes and Tickets

Buying or Selling Online Without Falling Victim to Fraud


You’d like to sell your bike? You’re looking for a good deal on a kitchen table? Online sales platforms can be a good option, but watch out for fraud and identity theft! Have you been scammed? Don’t panic. You can report it and take steps right away to avoid more headaches.

How can you recognize fraud?

When someone uses dishonest tactics to take money or something else from you, it’s fraud. A person may also want to get your personal information so that they can steal your identity, for example, to obtain credit. There are warning signs when someone is trying to scam you. For example, the person

  • refuses to make the transaction in person,
  • puts pressure on you to quickly conclude the transaction,
  • asks for your personal information,
  • asks for payment in advance, for example, a deposit,
  • suggests an unusual payment method, or
  • transfers an amount to you that is more than your asking price.

Fraudsters are creative and can be very convincing. Beware of emails or links that look like they are from a well-known organization or company. They could be fake emails or fake sites created to fool you.

How can you protect yourself from fraud?

You can take a few simple steps to protect yourself from fraud on online sales platforms.

Do the transaction in person

You can insist on carrying out the transaction in person in a public place. In person, you can choose to make a cash transaction. You can check to make sure that what you’re buying is in good condition and that it’s not an imitation that was presented as a known brand.

Some cities have safe trading zones specially reserved for people buying and selling online. Contact your municipality or police department for more information.

Don’t be afraid to say “no”

Never feel obliged to make a transaction. If you have doubts or you’re not comfortable with the way the other person wants to proceed, it’s best to simply refuse.

Take your time

Make sure to take all the time you need to check whatever you feel is important. For example, check the person’s identity and the comments on their profile, ask for additional photos of the product or make sure the electronic device you’re buying works.

What can you do if you’ve been scammed?

Don’t be ashamed of having been scammed. There are many things you can do to protect yourself or to report the incident.

Getting your money back

If your bank account or credit card has been used without your knowledge, immediately report the fraud to your bank. It may not be too late to block the transaction or you could be reimbursed. However, your bank could refuse to reimburse you if you were careless, for example, if you gave out your personal identification number.

You can also file a civil lawsuit against the person who scammed you and seek compensation through the courts. For sums of $15,000 or less, you would file your claim in small claims court.

Keep in mind that if you want to take the person who scammed you to court, you need to know their identity, which is often impossible in cases of online fraud.

Reporting a crime

If you have been a victim of crime, you can contact the police and report it. You are a victim of a crime even if you voluntarily gave money to the person who scammed you. You did it because the other person was dishonest.

You can also report fraud to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, which gathers information about fraud and identity theft across Canada.

Online sales platforms also have reporting mechanisms designed to identify dishonest individuals and shut down their accounts.

Protect your personal information 

If your personal information has been obtained, you can change your passwords and your security questions. If you act quickly, you can block access to your accounts.

You can also ask credit agencies to add a fraud or identity theft alert to your file. You may have to pay for this type of service. If a credit application is made in your name, the agency will contact you to confirm that it was you who made it.