CALGARY -- The Better Business Bureau is issuing a Canada-wide warning about a U.S. company reeling in customers and making off with their money.

The online marketplace, called Fishing Care Package, has already resulted in more than 1,500 complaints to the BBB from customers in Alberta, B.C., Ontario and Quebec as well as those in 49 U.S. states.

"To date, 1,263 (84 per cent) of these complaints have gone unanswered," the BBB says in a release.

Based in Stuart, Fla., the shop offers fishing rods, reels, lures and other fishing supplies but the consumer agency says the business' marketing strategy is "interesting" to say the least.

"We are a 'mystery' based company," the company's website states. "You can choose a package of your choice without the beforehand knowledge of what you will receive. You will get a random selection of fishing tackle items related to the species or type of fishing you chose."

But the BBB says customers of Fishing Care Package are either unboxing something they didn't ask for or aren't getting anything at all.

"Cannot reach the company. We ordered a fishing reel, Abu Garcia Revo X Baitcatster, and it was BOGO, with a total of $47.79," says one complaint filed to the BBB.

"I received an email confirmation and they took my money. To date, I still have not received the reels, nor a refund. I have reached out to the support email listed on the order confirmation but have never received a response."

The business currently has an 'F' rating with the BBB and more than 900 of the complaints against it have to do with delivery issues where customers were given incorrect or substituted items and denied refunds.

Fishing Care Package has yet to respond to inquiries from the BBB, but the agency has found its owner, Bailey Scott Damberg, is involved in proceedings with the Attorney General for the State of Florida for deceptive and unfair trade practices.

Officials with the BBB say the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to blame for the rise in fraudulent online marketplaces, especially as people are making more online transactions.

"Take the time to research unknown retailers, especially if they are based overseas and also review their website for signs of trustworthiness, like working contact information and realistic prices. Seeing phrases like 'mystery based company' on the website should raise red flags and could also be a sign that you are likely to stumble into unwanted surprises if you decide to shop with them," says Shawna-Kay Thomas, communications specialist for the BBB.

In order to protect yourself while shopping online, the agency offers the following advice:

  • Make sure you are shopping on a trustworthy site and not one that's meant to mimic a legitimate website
  • Review the website and thoroughly check over any small print before setting up an order
  • While some of the best deals can only be found online, watch out for those that are too good to be true such as very low prices on hard-to-find items or even free merchandise
  • Always use a credit card to shop online, because if you run into trouble, your credit card company offers you extra protection