Social media platforms can be a handy tool for finding second-hand items and selling items; however, this has also opened the door to more scams and frauds being committed.

Lethbridge Police Services responded to a Facebook Marketplace report of a seller using a homeowner’s address as a pick-up location on July 8. 

LPS  said the homeowner reported that various individuals were showing up at her address to pick up items they had put a deposit on.

“The complainant advised police she was not selling anything, but multiple people had attended her home to pick up various items. Police received an additional complaint from one of the victims, who reported paying in advance for a couch and being directed to the address for pick-up, but upon arrival, was advised of the scam,” the LPS said.

Investigation in this case is still ongoing so if residents have any additional information or have fallen victim to a scammer, they can report it to the LPS non-emergency line. 

The homeowner who initiated the report, Denise Ewasiw, shared the disappointment and shock individuals had upon learning they had fallen victim to this scam.

“Utter disappointment, shock. The one young girl that was here Friday evening was devastated. I mean, she was very young. And she was just trying to help a friend, I believe. And she had faith in that there were good people… I’ve literally seen just emotion just like drain out of people. And I’ve seen anger, and they don’t direct at me, thank goodness. But frustration because of the situation,” said Ewasiw.

The scammer goes by a name with the initials K.B. on her social media –  it is speculated the scammer’s photos and personal posts are stolen. LPS advises not to pay a deposit until the item is verified and shared common tactics used by fraudsters.

“Paying for an item in advance is not recommended. Fraudsters may claim there are numerous people interested in the item and they need payment in advance or a deposit to hold it in an effort to pressure potential buyers into acting immediately.

 If you pay in advance, the seller may never show up with the item or, like this case, provide a fake address for pick-up. Unless you know the seller personally, it is very risky to provide payment up front.”

Initially, Ewasiw thought the person had the wrong address, but after a second person showed up, she realized it was a scam and reported it to the police. 

Ewasiw expressed her concerns about the scammer using her address and has fears about how the scammer acquired her address.

“I was concerned for my safety, too. I thought, has she been targeting, has she been watching my house? Should I be alarmed now that she’s gonna break into my house or something? Like if she’d been scouting it out, why did she pick me? Was it just random? Or she lived down the street and watched from her house? So, it was a little alarming. That’s concerning for sure.”

The scammer claims to be a registered nurse working at a city nursing facility.

The facility vice president told The Herald that the scammer doesn’t work there.

The facility “has no affiliation, or nor have ever had an affiliation with the individual named or pictures associated with the individual.”

The scammer’s post indicated she was selling a grey L-shaped couch and outdoor furniture; the post has since been removed. Lethbridge police expressed the importance of inspecting the profile before proceeding in a transaction on marketplace. 

“When buying marketplace items, it’s important to examine the seller’s profile before proceeding with any transactions. Fraudsters often create fake accounts in order to scam buyers into purchasing non-existent products. When payment is made in advance, they take off with the money. Red flags to look for include profiles that are newly created with very little activity, advertising deals that are too good to be true, no past listings, refusal to meet in person, and requiring payment up front.”

Ewasiw echoes the police warning:  she understands why people ask for deposits but warns of the risk of sending a deposit. She figures the scammer has made good money.

She recommends that if people are going to give a deposit, it shouldn’t be a large one.

“Know that you’re taking a chance because  this person has probably made about $2,000 in three-four days.”

Due to the victims sending the funds through e-transfer, the money can’t be retrieved. 

“You want to believe that there’s good people out there, and I’ve had good experiences too, but unfortunately, there’s people like this that prey on people believing there’s good, and so you want to believe in humanity. You want to believe that there are good people, and they’re mostly are, and so it’s bad that one bad apple ruins it.

By Steffanie Costigan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 18, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   Lethbridge Herald    Lethbridge, Alberta

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