Skip to main content

CAFC Bulletin: Sale of Merchandise


Consumers that sell products online are at risk of losing their products, funds or both. Fraudsters will contact sellers via email or text with a generic message wanting to buy an item. They will claim to be out-of-town and offer to buy the item without seeing it. Fraudsters will offer to pay above the asking price to cover the cost of shipping. The seller will receive a fake email notification stating that the payment is pending. The message says that the money will only be transferred once a tracking number is provided by the seller. The seller will then ship the product and provide the tracking number to the fraudster. Shortly after, the seller will realize that the payment notification was fake and that no money is available.

In some variations, the fraudsters will send a follow-up email to the seller. The message will say that the money cannot be sent because there is a problem with the seller's account. The seller is told that they must pay a fee to upgrade their account to accept payments into a business account. The fraudsters will offer to pay the business account fee if the seller reimburses them for the cost. The seller is told to send the reimbursement using a money service business such as MoneyGram and Western Union. Once again, the seller will later realize that the payment notification was fake and that no money is available.

Warning Signs – How to Protect Yourself

  • Always meet in a local, public and safe location to complete an exchange.
  • Beware of generic emails with bad spelling and grammar.
  • Beware of overseas buyers who want to buy without seeing the product first.
  • Review all email information to make sure they are coming from a legitimate source.
  • Never send money to get money.
  • Do an online search to see if anyone has already reported the fraudulent seller.

If you think you or someone you know has been a victim of fraud, please contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or report online at

This document is the property of the CAFC. It is loaned to your agency/department in confidence and it is not to be reclassified, copied, reproduced, used or further disseminated, in whole or part, without the consent of the originator. It is not to be used in affidavits, court proceedings or subpoenas or for any other legal or judicial purposes. This caveat is an integral part of this document and must accompany any information extracted from it.