Scammers took advantage of public health precautions during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to defraud dozens of people who agreed to a contactless delivery through Facebook Marketplace or Kijiji, Edmonton police say.
Investigators announced more than 160 charges against six people on Friday.
They have linked some 70 incidents between May 2020 and September 2021 where an online seller agreed to bring an item to a specific address and never received an electronically transferred payment.
More than $190,000 in property was amassed by the fraudsters, police say.
Five men and one woman face a total of 163 charges related to fraud, identity theft, extortion, forged documents and possession of stolen property.
On Friday, Edmonton Police Service reiterated tips for safe online buying and selling:
Meet in a public location, ideally with video surveillance like EPS’ buy-and-sell exchange zones.
Bring someone with you for the meeting or, if that’s not possible, share the details of your meeting with friends or family.
Keep records or screenshots of all contact information and communication exchanged during the process, including asking for photo ID.
Do not leave property unattended.
Do not give a buyer your property until verifying the payment has been received.
As a buyer, do not disclose to the seller how you will be paying if it’s not necessary. Request a bill of sale when the transaction is complete.
Report stolen property to police.