Auction Frauds: Scams Used on Auction Sites, Like eBay.
Auction fraud involves fraud via the misrepresentation of a product
advertised for sale through an Internet auction site (like Ebay) or the
non-delivery of products purchased through an Internet auction site. In other
words, either the product you ordered isn't what the seller claimed it was, or
the seller fails to deliver it, or the seller lies about some other aspect of
Auction fraud is the most prevalent of Internet crimes associated with
Romania. Romanians, long famous in crime circles for gypsies and conmen, have
saturated the Internet auctions and offer almost every in-demand product.
Typically, they act more flexible than most sellers, allowing victims to send
half the funds now, and the other half when the item arrives.
The FBI published these statistics:
"Internet auction fraud was by far the most reported offense, comprising
44.9% of referred complaints. Non-delivered merchandise and/or payment
accounted for 19.0% of complaints. Check fraud made up 4.9% of complaints.
Credit/debit card fraud, computer fraud, confidence fraud, and financial
institutions fraud round out the top seven categories of complaints referred
to law enforcement during the year."
For the full report, go to the
IC3 webpage on statistics.
In an typical scam, the auctions are often posted as if the seller is a
United States citizen, then the subject advises the victim to send the money to
a business partner, associate, sick relative, a family member, etc., usually in
a European country. The money is usually requested to be transferred via
MoneyGram or Western Union wire. But the seller will often say that the buyer's
funds can not be released until the buyer provides the money transfer control
number (MTCN) or the answer to a "secret question"; and therefore the buyer can
wait until he receives the product before releasing the money. That is
In order to receive funds via Western Union, the receiver need only provide
the complete information of the sender (buyer) and the receiver's (seller's)
full name and address. The funds can be picked up anywhere in the world using
this information. There is no need to provide the any other information. Once
you have wired the money, it is gone. Money sent via wire transfer leaves little
recourse for the victim.
The most recent trend is a large increase in bank-to-bank wire transfers. Most
significantly, these wire transfers go through large United States banks and are
then routed to Bucharest, Romania or Riga, Latvia.
Similarly, the sellers also occasionally direct the victims to pay using phony
escrow services. You may think it is a real, legitimate service, but, usually
the site is a spoof, a fake, that resembles the real one and is created and
controlled by the scam artist. Once the funds are wire transferred to the escrow
website, the seller disappears. Also see Escrow Fraud.
Some clues that a fraud is about to be committed against you are the following
If you are the buyer:
- Whoops! I'm no longer in the U.S. - The seller posts the auction
as if he resides in the United States, then responds to victims with a
congratulatory email stating he is outside the United States for business
reasons, family emergency, etc. Similarly, beware of sellers who post the
auction under one name, and ask for the funds to be transferred to another
- Wire me the money! - The seller requests funds to be wired
directly to him/her via Western Union, MoneyGram, or bank-to-bank wire
transfer. By using these services, the money is virtually unrecoverable with
no recourse for the victim.
- I'm the manufacturer's dealer in ____ - Sellers acting as
authorized dealers or factory representatives in countries where there would
be no such dealers should be avoided.
If you are the seller
- Oh, ship it to me this way, so I can avoid customs - Buyers who
ask for the purchase to be shipped using a certain method to avoid customs
or taxes inside another country should be avoided.
- Ship it to me here - Be suspect of any credit card purchases
where the address of the card holder does not match the shipping address. Of
course, it may just be that the buyer uses a bill paying service or is
traveling. In any case, always receive the card holder's authorization
before shipping any products.
What to do if you are scammed
Steps to take if victimized:
- File a complaint with the online auction company. In order to be considered
for eBayís Fraud Protection Program, you should submit an
online Fraud Complaint
90 days after the listing end-date.
- File a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
- Contact law enforcement officials at the local and state level (your local
and state police departments).
- Also contact law enforcement officials in the perpetrator's town & state.
- File a complaint with the shipper USPS, UPS, Fed-Ex, etc.
- File a complaint with the
National Fraud Information Center
- File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.
- Send copies of the
correspondance, emails, etc. to Consumer Fraud Reporting.
Tips for buyers - Avoiding Internet Auction Frauds
Listed below are tips to protect yourself and your family from various forms
of Internet fraud:
- Determine what method of payment the seller is asking from the buyer and
where he/she is asking to send payment.
- When purchasing products over the Internet, itís best to use your credit
card rather than PayPal or your debit card. That way, if you have any
problems, you have recourse to dispute the charges through your credit-card
company before the payment is actually made.
- Examine the feedback on the seller.
- Learn as much as possible about the seller, especially if the only
information you have is an e-mail address. If it is a business, check the
Better Business Bureau where the seller/business is located.
- Understand as much as possible about how the auction works, what your
obligations are as a buyer, and what the seller's obligations are before you
- Find out what actions the web site/company takes if a problem occurs and
consider insuring the transaction and shipment.
- If a problem occurs with the auction transaction, it could be much more
difficult if the seller is located outside the US because of the difference
- Ask the seller about when delivery can be expected and if there is a
problem with the merchandise is it covered by a warranty or can you exchange
- Find out if shipping and delivery are included in the auction price or
are additional costs so there are no unexpected costs.
- There should be no reason to ever give out your social security
number or drivers license number to the seller.
If you believe you may have fallen victim to this type of scam and wish to
report it, please file a complaint
with the U.S. government
Internet Fraud Complaints
Center. And tell us about it,
so we can warn others!
In addition, visit eBay and
PayPal for additional
security alerts and fraud prevention tips.
See these sample frauds to help in knowing what to look for:
eBay scammers caught!
- Buy my puppy!
- eBay/Auction Listers/Sales Position/P-Time/F-time...
- Ebay scam
- Another Ebay scam
- Online Auction Motorcycle Scams
- Robert James, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Wii Game
Console, Another Romanian Scammer, Ciprian Paul Bradeanu,
globalaircargoltd.com, Romania, "You have to make the payment exactly how we
agreed on via Western Union. "
- Mandy Coker,
"The payment (Check)will contain some extra money which you will help me get across to the shipper as we have arranged with a shipper to come and pick up the item"
How to Buy from Online Auctions
See this page for tips and guidelines
to buy online without getting scammed