Kitchener-Waterloo·CBC Investigates

Almost 80 people say they're victims of Facebook makeup scam

Nearly 80 people in Southern Ontario have filed reports with the Waterloo Regional Police, claiming they're the victims of fraud after they didn't receive makeup they bought in a Facebook group.

Waterloo Regional Police assign additional officers to investigate

Waterloo Regional Police say they have received reports about a Facebook group to buy and sell makeup in the region. Women in the group say they sent Lisa Ide, shown here, money and didn't receive the makeup, or in some few cases, received some of what they bought. (Facebook)

Denise Boone says she's out more than $2,000 after sending money to a Kitchener, Ont., woman who ran Facebook groups to buy and sell makeup. Boone says she only received one of over 400 products ordered in 29 online transactions.

Boone, who lives in Cambridge and works at an automotive plant, is one of about eighty people who claim they sent money online to a woman named Lisa Ide but never received what they paid for, or only received a small portion of their orders. 

"When I joined this group, Lisa made me feel like she was my friend, that I could talk to her, I could message her if I had anything I needed to say. You know, she was there for me, she made me trust her," Boone said.

Waterloo Regional Police (WRPS) confirmed to CBC News just under 80 people have filed reports about the Facebook groups, but police are still in the early stages of the investigation. CBC News has interviewed six women and corresponded with several others for the story.

Many of the women say they live in Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge, but others who claim to be victims include one woman in Guelph, two women in Toronto, two in London, two in Hamilton, two in St. Catharines and another in Owen Sound. Outside the province, one woman in Summerside, Prince Edward Island and one in Drayton Valley, Alta., say they are also victims.

Boxes from makeup retailer Sephora were outside a Kitchener home, addressed to Lisa Ide. (Andrea Bellemare/CBC)

The women started their own Facebook group to share their stories and calculate how much money they say they've lost. By their estimation, 109 people are out $37,506. A further 11 women say they were refunded by Lisa Ide, and together recouped $2,176. 

CBC News made multiple attempts to contact Ide over a period of several weeks, including multiple emails, tweets, a Facebook message before Ide's account appeared to have been deactivated or deleted, and visits to two street addresses Ide had provided to women in the group. 

The only response CBC News received from Ide was an email asking CBC to stop contacting her. 

But is it fraud?

Whether or not the transactions constitute fraud is unclear. 

"It's a really kooky thing, it's not black and white," said Staff Sgt. Alison Bevington, who leads the WRPS major fraud unit. Bevington said partial payments, agreed-upon delays, purchase credits and partially-fulfilled product orders make the issue more complicated. In some cases, Bevington said, the dispute would be a civil matter over contracts and could be pursued through a civil suit.

"When we have many victims that have the same criteria, so the agreement or the contract was they would receive product, and we can say that the individual has deceived many people, that's when it can become a full fraud," she said.

Two extra officers have been added to the major fraud unit to help with the investigation.

Embarrassment

Not everyone who claimed they've been a victim has reported their experience to police and that's to be expected, Bevington said.

"Sometimes people don't report frauds because they are embarrassed, or don't want other people to know – [such as] their other half – that they're spending money," she said.

"Everybody has their own reasons that they don't want to report. We obviously encourage people to make a report to us so we can try and assist them." 
A screenshot from a group run by Lisa Ide to buy and sell makeup in Waterloo region. Ide notes that members who don't follow the rules will be kicked out. (Facebook)

Group dynamics = more purchases

Julie Shala, a university student who lives in Waterloo, said she'd purchased makeup from Ide before, and had even met her to collect the products on at least ten occasions.

But starting in December, she didn't receive anything and Ide would cancel meetings. Shala said she sent Ide hundreds of dollars for products she didn't get.

"The whole group was kind of brainwashed in a sense," said Shala, who said she discussed it with her friends, and they all agreed they were frustrated.

"But then on the Facebook group, everyone would be like, 'This is so normal, Lisa is doing the best she can, Lisa's so busy, these deals are so great guys, you can't complain about waiting for extra time,'" Shala said. "So I kind of got brainwashed, too." 

Boone said she did receive one item, and was given an excuse about the items she didn't get. 

"When I did receive that item, I messaged her, I'm like, 'Hey, OK, I got this one, but the one were you supposed send a week and half before this one, still hasn't shown up,'" Boone said.

"That's when she told me that, oh, the weekend after I bought that from her, her apartment got broken into and somebody broke into her apartment stole all of her makeup and that must've been in there because now it's gone," Boone said.

Rapport and relationship 

Some of the women CBC News talked to said they felt Ide was their friend and said she made online videos showing products she had, and would talk about giveaways.

Other women told CBC they had to send e-transfers to Ide in order to place a hold on the items they wanted to buy.

"I felt like I could maybe relate to her," said Shavonna Speers Baker, a 26-year-old in Guelph. "In the end I spent like almost $500, and I didn't get a single product." 


If you ordered makeup online and would like to share your story, please contact CBC Kitchener-Waterloo by email at: yournewskw@cbc.ca

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrea Bellemare is a reporter and producer with CBC Radio. She helped launch the new CBC Kitchener-Waterloo radio station in 2013 and worked as a producer there for half a decade, reported for CBC Montreal, produced radio documentaries for CBC Radio and covered disinformation for CBC News. She has also reported for the wire service Agence France-Presse.

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