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Online Frauds

Online frauds are more prevalent than ever before. It's difficult to see who is real and who is just a question mark behind the monitor. But you can protect yourself - you just need to know what kind of frauds are out there and the best practices to keep your identity, money, and personal information to yourself.

The most valuable tip we can give you is to never send money or give credit card or online account details to anyone you do not know and trust.

If you've been a victim call the Edmonton Police Service immediately at 780-423-4567 or #377 from your mobile phone. If you're a victim of fraud, do not be afraid to come forward. You are not alone. We are here to help you.

To report a fraud, please contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre online or at 1-888-495-8501.

Types of Online Fraud

Romance Scams - Dating websites are the new and popular form of socializing to find and build a relationship with someone. The desire to find that mister or mrs right is perfect for scammers to use against you.

Romance scams can occur on legitimate dating websites, or the scammer may create his/her own site set up to take your money.

On a fake dating website (which is created to look like a known legitimate site), the scammer will charge its members for each email or message you send and receive. The scammer will try to hook you in to keep you replying so they keep getting your money.

On legitimate dating websites, scammers will play the role of real identity to get your attention. After a short time, they will try to play the sympathy card by bringing up a sick family member and will advertly or inadvertly ask for help (money).

Or the scammer will create a seemingly legitimate connection with you, friendship or otherwise. They may even keep the appearance up by sending you gifts and tokens of love. Then they will tell you about a large sum of money they need transferred out of their country or they want to share it with you. That's when the scammer asks for your financial details to "free up" this money.


  • Before you sign up for a dating website, do your research and make sure it's a legitimate and reputable company.
  • Don't give out your personal information in an email, online, or text.
  • Never send money or give financial information to anyone you don't know and trust.

Lottery, Sweepstakes and Contest Scams - These scams are popular email and online advertising scams. They let you know that you've won this contest but you have to provide some personal and banking information in order to claim it. Sometimes it's a fee or a tax - you should never have to pay these to claim a legitimate prize.   

Scammers will also say that the prize is legal and/or has government approval, so don't be fooled! They just want to steal your money or your identity.

If you're unsure if the email is a scam, ask yourself, "Did I even enter to win this prize? If not, then why am I the winner?". 

Spam Scams -  Email scams are countless. Scammers will pretend to be an official organization, a buyer for your small business products, or even blatantly ask you for money.

  • Money transfer requests
    • Money transfer scams are on the rise. Be very careful when someone offers you money to help transfer their funds. Once you send money to someone, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to get it back.
  • Phishing scams - Phishing scams try to trick the receiver into providing personal and banking information. Some times the emails are obviously fake (multiple spelling mistakes), but some may look genuine (proper logo or entire website designs). Just remember: legitimate organizations and banking companies will never ask you to send your personal information by email or online.
    • If the email includes a link so you can update, validate, or confirm your information, do not click on the link. Many phishing emails with links will carry computer viruses. Just delete the email.
    • If you are not sure if this is real, contact the company first. Chances are, they will tell you it's a scam.
  • Business email scams - As a business owner who advertises online, you may be targeted by an overpayment scam. A potential buyer contacts you with an offer and you receive a payment worth more than your agreed price. This buyer then says it was a mistake or to "cover delivery charges". If the buyer asked you to refund the difference by money transfer, be cautious. This buyer may have just given you a counterfeit cheque and is hoping to receive your refund before you find out.
    • Never accept money that is more than what you agreed upon. Send it back and ask the buyer to send the proper payment amount.

Charity Scams

Charity scams take advantage of your generosity by impersonating a charity that doesn't exist, or falsely representing a legitimate charity.

Charity scams can reach you at your doorstep, on the street, over the phone, or online. Many charity scams occur after a worldly known natural disaster. Others may pretend to be helping sick children, families in need, hockey organizations, police organizations, and more.

The scammer will try to pressure you into a donation and will either refuse to provide more details about the charity (location or contact details), or will give you incorrect information.


  • All legitimate charities are registered by the Canada Revenue Agency - check it out before you donate.
  • If you want to donate to the charity, get the contact details from a phone book or their official website to donate.
  • Government and law enforcement agencies will NEVER ask you for donations over email.

Employment Scams - promise a large income and usually with little work involved. The most common is the "work-from-home" scam. They are usually found in emails or online advertisements. Many are fronts for money laundering or pyramid schemes.

Guaranteed employment scams contact you by email and the employment usually requires a start-up fee to ensure your position.


  • If you have to pay to ensure your employment, it's probably a scam.
  • There are no shortcuts to high-income.

Buy/Sell Website Scams - Online auctions and internet shopping websites are largely successful. Many shoppers prefer online over a mall. So if you're one of millions of people who enjoy online shopping, be careful of scammers and people trying to sell off their stolen or counterfeit goods. 

Scammers may go to online auction sites to see who was outbid on a product. The scammer will then contact the runner-up and say the winner backed out of the offer and you are the new winner. The key is that they will ask you to deal outside of the online auction website so they can receive your payment and never be caught because the auction site can no longer help you.

Tips to avoid a scam website and/or a scam product:

  • Do your best to ensure the shopping site is genuine - look for information on returns, privacy policies, terms and conditions, a physical address and phone number for the business.
  • Make sure you know about the site's refund policies.
  • Read the site's privacy policy to see how your information will be used.
  • Check buyer and seller ratings before purchasing. Never buy from someone with an average of poor ratings.
  • Consider using a service like PayPal (especially for high-priced items) that holds your payment until you have received your items, then your money will go to the seller.
  • Don't allow the company to store your personal information. Disable that feature!
  • Keep a paper trail of your receipts, emails, and any other correspondence.
  • Don't use public wi-fi services when buying online!

Breeder Scams - The fraudster poses as a dog breeder who is selling his/her puppies at a discounted price. The fraudulent breeder then sends photos and registration documents, and plays on the heart strings of the potential adopters.

The breeder will then arrange the shipping of the puppy for a cost, which is “guaranteed” to be refunded after delivery of your new fur-baby. This alleged shipping company creates delays, which in turn, cost the adopting family even more. For example, a special crate is needed, more vet fees, additional insurance, a cancelled or diverted flight, etc. To pay for these additional costs, the fraudulent company asks for money to be sent electronically to an individual – not a company. 

In the end, there never was a puppy and no money is refunded.


When you are looking to adopt an animal, please research potential organizations or breeders and beware of some common signs of scams.


These signs include:

  • Being unable to communicate with a person over the phone (text or email communication only)

  • Poorly written online communications with spelling and grammatical errors, even listing the wrong dog breed

  • Funds asked to be sent to a different country

  • Refundable shipping/additional costs

  • Sending money electronically to an individual person

  • Heavily discounted price

Find out more information about buying vehicles or other products online from sites like Kijiji, Craigslist or Buy and Sell pages.