A Calgary couple is warning about thieves trolling on the popular online classified site Kijiji.

Sara Hughes put her wedding dress up for sale on the site this past weekend and says there was immediate interest. But as emails went back and forth, something wasn't sitting right with her.

Kijiji ad

A Calgary couple is warning people to be wary after they narrowly avoided becoming victims of an online scam after posting an ad on Kijiji. (Submitted by Sara Hughes)

"The fact that someone's willing to pay that much for a dress they've never seen is questionable to me, being a bride myself," said Hughes. 

Her fiance, Ryan Stock, says the person offering to buy the dress was using PayPal. However, Stock noticed the logo and email addresses were a bit different.

When the prospective buyer said they had sent Hughes an extra $450 to cover shipping — and asked her to wire that money back to them — the couple knew it must be a scam and contacted PayPal.

Within minutes, the company told Hughes and Stock the offer was a scam.

PayPal is now investigating.

For Hughes and Stock, the scam highlights the need to make sure people are aware of the potential for dishonesty on the internet.

"People that, you know, maybe are more elderly or not as tech-savvy, or maybe a bit more desperate to sell something online, and hopeful that they could get their sale processed faster might fall for a trick like that."

Report any and all suspected scams

Canadians lose millions of dollars every year to online fraud and other scams. However, many don't report it or aren't sure whether what they have encountered meets the criteria of a scam.

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, anyone targeted by a scam — whether or not they actually fall victim to it — should report it to investigators at the centre.

As soon as money is sent by wire transfer, such as Western Union or Money Gram, it is gone and cannot be retrieved, so the RCMP recommends Canadians be wary of requests to wire money.

If it's necessary to send money online, the RCMP suggests considering using an escrow service and says shoppers (or sellers) should always verify the site they are using has a secure connection.

Rather than using links to the site, type the website address directly into the internet browser to avoid being a victim of a phishing or pharming operation.

Types of online scams

There are many different scams and ways criminals can defraud people online. Many of these have become familiar as they gained popularity in recent years, such as the "Granny scam" or letters from people in West Africa offering victims a cut of their cash if they help stash it online. However, most online fraud falls under one of three categories.

  • Phishing is when a fraudster sends out mass spam messages to try and draw victims to a website designed to look very similar to a business's website that is reputable, such as a big bank or government department. The term "phishing" is a play on fishing — the criminal is throwing out bait to see if they can get a fish (you) to take it. Once the victim arrives on the fake website, they are generally prompted to provide personal or financial details that will then be used to commit identify fraud.
  • Pharming is when a criminal, often a hacker, redirects traffic from a legitimate website to a fake website without the victim being aware of it. The victim then enters personal information, which is "harvested" by the criminal, which is where the name — a play on the word farming — derives from.
  • Spoofing is when a criminal uses software or an online tool to mask their identity by displaying a fake e-mail address, name or telephone number on the victim's computer or phone. This is meant to trick the victim into thinking they are dealing with someone trustworthy and also hides their location. Internet service providers and telephone companies can unmask people using spoofing but only if they are informed quickly, before their database overwrites the information.