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Gatineau, Que. Facebook Marketplace sellers using fake addresses to scam buyers

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Residents of a Gatineau, Que. neighbourhood have been dealing with a string of strangers knocking at the doors of their homes looking to pick up their purchased products from Facebook Marketplace, but instead discovering they had been scammed.

For days now, Allan Barnes and some of his neighbours have had to break the troubling news to the steady stream of people coming to their homes to pick up their online purchases, all of them victims of fraud.

“This has happened 15 or 20 times now and it's still happening," said Barnes, a Pointe Gatineau resident.

“They’re looking for mixers, they’re looking for baseball caps, all kinds of items generic household items. One person showed up this morning for a baby-swing and my wife felt so horrible she almost offered her money just to try and take some of the feeling away," he said.

"It’s an awful feeling for these people.”

Barnes was told by the unsuspecting victims that the Marketplace seller would provide curbside pick-up and required payment upfront in the form of an e-transfer.

Once the payment was received, the seller would give them a fake but very real address.

"It’s hard on having these strangers come up and then hearing some of their stories about losing some of the money – it’s hard on us and it’s hard on them," said Barnes.

"We’ve called the police and a file has been opened."

He says other neighbours have done the same.

Andrée East with the Gatineau Police says internet scams are common and said the bad actors could be anywhere in the world.

East strongly warns against purchasing a product before seeing it.

In many cases, once an online e-transfer has been sent and received, the chances of getting the money back is nearly impossible.

Those who want to make a purchase should use caution and look for signs the account could be fake.

“The first thing would be to look at the profile of the sellers, does it seem that this profile had been made up recently and do those people seem to have friends," said East.

"It’s important to remember people can pretend to be buyers too."

East also says it is best to make the sale at a secure exchange zone.

Gatineau police stations, as well as most police stations across the National Capital Region, have created a well-marked, well-lit space under constant video surveillance.

"If you propose to the seller to meet at one of the secure zones here at the police station and if the seller refuses it should be a red flag to you," said East.

"You should use the secure zone to enhance the chances that the transaction will be made safely, but honestly there is no zero risk on those exchanges on the internet.”

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