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Online Auction Fraud

Thinking of bidding in an online auction, or selling some of your stuff?  Internet auctions are a great resource for shoppers and sellers, but you need to watch out for some pitfalls.

What to watch out for

  • Carefully consider your method of payment.  Learn what recourse you have if something goes wrong.  Do not send cash, and do not use a money wiring service.

  • Whether you are a buyer or a seller, read each auction site's Terms of Use before using it for the first time.  Sites may charge fees, follow different rules, or offer different protections.

  • Know who you are dealing with.  Avoid doing business with sellers you can't identify, especially those who try to lure you off the auction site with promises of a better deal.  Confirm the seller's telephone number in case you have questions or problems.

  • Do not reply to or click any links in phishing emails.  Delete messages that look like they've been sent by an auction website or payment service and ask for your password or other personal information.  Click here for more information about phishing emails.

  • Watch out for fake check scams.  If a "buyer" send you a check for more than your agreed upon price, don't ship the item you are selling, don't cash the check, and don't send the "buyer" any money.  It is almost certainly a scam.

What to do if you have problems with a transaction

If you have problems during a transaction, try to work them out directly with the seller, buyer, or site operator.  If that doesn't work, file a complaint with:

  • The attorney general's office in your state

  • Your county or state consumer protection agency

  • The Better Business Bureau

  • The Federal Trade Commission

 

This site is for educational purposes and is not intended to provide legal advice.  For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.  Credits: Federal Trade Commission; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Homeland Security; National Cyber Security Alliance.


 

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