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Vancouver Etsy shop owner 'hijacked,' over 300 customers scammed

Customers were being scammed out of $200 to $1,000 for items that didn't even exist.
One Vancouver Etsy shop owner says she was hacked resulting in over 300 customers scammed out of $200 to $1,000 via items that didn't even exist.

It's been six months since Etsy shop owners began boycotting the online e-commerce platform. 

Yet, many shop owners find the platform equally frustrating for another reason. 

One Vancouver Etsy shop owner says her shop was "hijacked" by hackers who scammed over 300 of her customers by selling them items that didn't even exist.

Nicole Townend wasn't aware of the hack until recently.

On Wednesday morning (Oct. 12), Townend started receiving messages from people asking for refunds and assistance with their orders. Having not listed any items on her shop since around a year ago, she took the messages for spam. 

Later that day, Townend became suspicious. "Every two minutes I would get one of these messages from somebody," she tells Vancouver Is Awesome over the phone. "I looked at my shop and saw that a lot of old listings that I sold in the past had been relisted at crazy prices."

Though her Etsy shop looked the same, retaining her name and photos, the hackers had changed the email address and password used to log in. "They would have had to change my banking information as well in order to get the deposit from the shop," she adds. 

She's contacted Etsy Support as well as the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) for help. 

While the platform has responded with generic support emails, including instructions on changing passwords and asking for login information, the VPD told Townend that because it's a cybercrime they can't do much to help. 

Fortunately, the shop owner still had access to customer messages using her personal account which was still linked to the shop. "I was able to respond to them telling them to seek help," Townend shared in a Facebook group. "Eventually, the hacker caught on and hacked my personal account and shut it down completely. It looks like they have taken my website down as well."

Prior to being locked out, she last heard that people were being scammed out of $200 to $1,000 each, and, despite her efforts to shut down the shop with Etsy's help, the shop sale tally shows around 350 new transactions made since then. 

"They have essentially shut down my business and are still using my name and photo as the face. Etsy is doing nothing," she writes. 

Now, Townend is no longer associating herself with her old shop name, which sold houseplants and plant-themed clothes, due to the hackers.

Etsy hackers aren't uncommon

Townend's story is far from uncommon. Numerous Etsy shop owners have taken to the internet to share their devastating and frustrating experiences on TikTok, Reddit, and even Etsy's community forum, to warn others of hackers. Many encourage users to delete their accounts. 

In Townend's case, she should have been notified when her shop's email address was changed, as per Etsy's instructions on changing an account's email address. But she never received any notice. 

She also logs in to her shop weekly to check up on her account and in case past customers have reached out. 

Etsy has a support page for instances when users suspect fraudulent activity on their accounts, but only recommends sellers change their passwords and enable two-factor authentication. 

If a customer gets scammed, they can get refunded. An article by MadeUrban says that Etsy will require proof of the purchased item having not delivered or not being as described. However, this requires customers to open a case.