Consumers who visit Internet auction sites may come away with a steal on a product, as price and convenience are the main reasons such websites are increasingly popular. Con artists may visit Internet auction sites also seeking a steal — of a consumer’s money.
Internet auction fraud is a common type of scam reported to the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office. Scammers use Internet auction sites to post sales for vehicles, boats or other items that turn out to be fake or “sold” to multiple buyers. Just as online auctions are attractive to consumers because of their ease of use, they are just as attractive to criminals who can post an illegitimate advertisement within seconds.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued this consumer alert today to help Arkansas consumers shop safely on online auction sites.
“Internet auction websites are usually a great place to find a hard-to-find item or to get a good deal, but there are always risks to doing business with someone you don’t know,” McDaniel said. “It’s always a good idea contact a seller with any questions before you bid on an item and to be extremely cautious when doing business with a seller from outside the United States.”
There are three general types of Internet auction fraud: Wire-transfer fraud, in which a scammer advertises a fraudulent item, asks the purchaser to wire money or use a prepaid debit card, then never delivers the item; overpayment fraud, in which a scammer sends a counterfeit check to a legitimate seller for a price higher than the sales price, then asks the seller to cash the check and return the difference to a shipper or handler; and “second-chance” fraud, in which a seller offers losing bidders another chance to buy an item, but takes the buyer’s money and is never heard from again.
McDaniel offered this advice to consumers to avoid falling victim to Internet auction fraud:
• Understand the refund, return and warranty policies of Internet auction sites before buying. When purchasing directly from individuals or small businesses, the host site usually disclaims responsibility for problems that may arise during a transaction.
• Try to avoid sellers who demand only wire transfers or Greendot Moneypak cards as payment, as well as those sellers who live in another country.
• Attempt to verify a seller’s legitimacy before making a purchase. Do so by reading reviews and feedback. Be comfortable with the seller’s methods of receiving payment or shipping items.
• Email or call the seller with any questions, and never make a bid before receiving satisfactory answers to those questions.
• Use credit cards when buying items online, as typically consumers have more protection in a dispute. Review credit card statements monthly to ensure all charges are legitimate and accurate.
Details: www.GotYourBackArkansas.org or 800-482-8982.