Tags: Online | Auction | Scams | Targeted | Fed | Fraud | Fighters

Online Auction Scams Targeted By Fed Fraud Fighters

Tuesday, 21 December 2004 12:00 AM

In fact, auction fraud is the single largest category of Internet related complaints in the FTC “consumer sentinel” database.

Operation Bidder Beware, a coordinated effort of the FTC and the National Association of Attorneys General, has, according to a recent news release, resulted in 57 criminal and civil law enforcement actions.

According to the FTC’s Director of Consumer Protection, the most effective way to fight Internet auction fraud is a team approach among law enforcers. The FTC is working with partners almost coast-to-coast to stop scammers in the virtual world.

While law enforcement has a vital role to play in stopping online auction rip-offs, responsible auction sites are working to “police” their own markets. However, as with most types of frauds, education is the single most important and powerful tool to help protect the innocent consumer.

Many cases involve a standard scam where consumers purportedly “won” the bid for merchandise through an online auction site, sent in their money, but never received the merchandise.

Crafty thieves are constantly changing their online auction names and email addresses making it harder for both the consumer and law enforcement to track them down.

Online criminals have taken the scam a step further by setting up phony escrow services.

Legitimate escrow services are used in Internet auction transactions to prevent fraud by acting as an independent third party after the transaction has taken place by receiving the buyers’ money and assuring the sellers that they can safety ship the goods and holding payment until the consumers are satisfied with their purchases. Then, and only then, does the escrow service release the funds to the seller.

In creating these con escrow services, scammers, depending on whether they are the “buyer” or “seller” in a particular transaction, have either fraudulently kept the money without sending the merchandise out or received goods without making payment.

What can you do to help reduce your chances of being an online auction fraud victim?

Here are some valuable tips suggested by the FTC:

1. Become familiar with the auction site. Find out what protections the auction site offers buyers. Don’t assume one site’s rules are the same as another’s.

2. Before bidding find out all you can about the seller. Avoid doing business with sellers you cannot identify, especially those that try to lure you off the auction site with promises of a better deal.

3. If the seller insists on using a particular escrow or online payment service you have never heard of, check it out. Visit its Web site and call its customer service line. If there is not one, or you call and cannot reach someone, do not use that service.

4. Protect your privacy. Never provide your Social Security number, driver’s license number, credit card number, or bank account information until you have checked out the seller and the online payment or escrow service, if you are using one, to ensure legitimacy.

5. Save all transaction information.

For more information, check out www.ftc.gov.

My Final Thoughts: By far, the great majority of all online auction transactions are legitimate. Internet auctions are a fun and exciting way to find bargains on a multitude of items, but always be sure to use caution and common sense.

If you do have any problems during an online auction transaction, try to work them out with the seller, buyer or site operator.

If that does not work, file a complaint with your local state attorney general’s office and the FTC by calling toll-free 1-877-FTC-HELP.

(Note: If you manufacture or distribute any Security, Safety, Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Defense or Crime Prevention related products, please send information on your product line for possible future reference in this column to: CrimePrevention123@yahoo.com.)

Copyright 2004 by Bruce Mandelblit

“Staying Safe” with Bruce Mandelblit is a regular column for the readers of NewsMax.com and NewsMax.com Magazine. Bruce welcomes your thoughts. His email address is: CrimePrevention123@yahoo.com. Bruce is a nationally known security journalist, as well as a recently retired, highly decorated reserve Law Enforcement Officer. Bruce writes Staying Safe, a weekly syndicated column covering the topics of security, safety and crime prevention. Bruce was commissioned as a Kentucky Colonel - the state’s highest honor -- for his public service. This column is provided for general information purposes only. Please check with your local law enforcement agency and legal professional for information specific to you and your jurisdiction.

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In fact, auction fraud is the single largest category of Internet related complaints in the FTC "consumer sentinel" database. Operation Bidder Beware, a coordinated effort of the FTC and the National Association of Attorneys General, has, according to a recent news...
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Tuesday, 21 December 2004 12:00 AM
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