Scammers Target Online Auctions

Scammers target online auctions

Online auction sites are a popular way to buy and sell merchandise when a garage sale just won’t do. Some auction sites are more secure than others, however, and scammers are on the prowl for unsuspecting victims.

One of the most widely used auction scams involves fake checks and money orders. An individual that wants to sell a vehicle, boat, or other high dollar item will list it on a chosen auction site. A scammer will then e-mail the seller and express interest in the object. Claiming that he or she is unable to personally inspect the item, the scammer will request digital photos of it.

Soon after the photos are sent, the scammer responds by offering the full asking price of the item – plus an additional small amount for the seller’s inconvenience. The extra is meant to ease any misgivings the seller might have about the sale and prompt the person to accept the agreement. The scammer will then mail a cashier’s check or money order drawn from what is likely a fictitious financial institution with an additional amount for transport expenses.

At this point, the seller is instructed to wire the transportation fee to the individual or company responsible for picking up the item. The transportation fee is where the scammer obtains the ill-gotten gains.

When the seller wires the transportation fee, the money comes straight out of his or her account. The check or money order sent by the scammer doesn’t bounce for several days, and by the time it does, the transportation fee is already in the greedy hands of the scammer. In more extreme cases, it’s also possible that a brazen scammer could pick up the purchased item as well, leaving the seller without the item or transportation fee. This would effectively cause the seller to pay for the scammer to steal the item.

When dealing with online auctions, always make sure your bank verifies a check or money order before accepting it as valid payment. If a buyer pitches you a story similar to the one above, use extreme caution to protect yourself from becoming a scammer’s next victim.

What other advice would you give others to prevent them from becoming victims of fraud?

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