Man loses thousands to fraud via eBay

Terrace, BC RCMP warn people to be aware of potential dangers

A MAN has been defrauded of thousands of dollars in another internet scam.

The man made a deal to purchase a motorcycle from “Elysse H” on Ebay and pay for it via a private money transfer. The man was sent “Ebay Motor Protection Policy” emails which lead the man into thinking that the transaction was legitimized through Ebay. Once the money was sent the listing disappeared and “Elysse H” along with it.

“People need to remember that they are conducting business with total strangers. Most people are decent and honest, but some aren’t and they can really mess up your day. Simple checks go a long way in protecting yourself. In this case, the investigating member searched the fax number that was provided by the seller and quickly saw that it was associated to frauds, ” says Cst Angela Rabut, community policing/media relations Terrace RCMP.

Some tips to stay safe on Ebay:

Know the product. This is pretty simple in many cases, if the item is well-known and readily available. But, if there is a cheap knock-off of any product, you can bet it will end up on Ebay. Do your research via web, books or other authorities before you bid. Do not assume authenticity.

Do not follow e-mail addresses that are included in the text section of postings. If the seller claims that is the only way to contact them, abandon ship and go no further. Send all the questions you have ONLY via the Ebay mail link (Ask Seller a Question). When you do send a message, ask about payment methods and shipping and such, not just about the item itself. If you don’t like the options the seller gives for payment method, tell him what you would be willing to do. If he is real, he may try to accommodate you because he has the item and he wants to sell it.

Short duration sales may be suspicious. There are a few good reasons to sell quickly (such as a high-demand commodity item where there are many sellers and many items), but it may also be setting the stage for a hit-and-run seller. Scammers want to quickly hook their marks and then disappear into the ether; they do not want their postings to languish for all to see. It is not a deal-breaker, but should be considered along with other potential red flags.

Do not deal with people out of country. If you must, proceed cautiously. Especially do not deal with anyone who is “temporarily” out of the country.

Beware if the bid amount is in another currency.

What is the return policy, and how much do they charge for shipping? Don’t be impressed by money-back guarantees and dirt-cheap shipping. If it is a scam, they aren’t going to give your money back and they aren’t going to ship anything.

Look at the seller’s feedback. Carefully! Don’t just look at an impressively large number and call it good. There is a ton of useful information here if you take the time to really investigate. If it is a stolen account, they are somebody else’s points anyway. But you can learn a lot. Have they bought or sold anything recently, and what was it? Accounts that have no recent activity are much more likely to be stolen accounts. Is this auction consistent with items bought and sold in the past? If a buyer of $5 trinkets is suddenly selling a $4000 drum set, take note. It may be valid, but it is suspicious.Is the item location the same for this sale as for the seller’s last sales? Does the location actually exist, or is it some fictional locale? Are the accepted payment methods the same as the last sales? If PayPal was accepted before, why insist on a wire transfer or cashier’s check now? The seller’s positive feedback points for purchased items are not very useful to you as a buyer, so don’t over-value them.

What else is the seller posting for sale at the time? Follow the link for Seller’s Other Items. If they have a large number of unrelated big-ticket items currently for sale (musical instruments, computers, cameras, bicycles…) that is very suspicious.

Look at the photos. Are they just stock pictures from the company web site or are they apparently authentic photos of the item? Scammers can get pictures of anything from the web, including from other Ebay auctions. If you have seen the exact same photo in other auctions, be suspicious. Also, look at the backgrounds in the photos. Does it look like they just took their digital camera into a store and started clicking away?

Talk to the seller! How? Place as low a bid as possible on the item. Bidding gives you the right to view the seller’s contact information. Go to this link, http://www.ebay.com/sch/ebayadvsearch?_sofindtype=9 and paste in the seller’s name and the item number. Ebay will e-mail his contact information to you. If the phone number does not work, that is a major red flag. Use a phone number web-site or directory assistance to verify that the person’s name, location and phone number make sense. Don’t be afraid to ask very specific questions about the product and sale. If you have tried to contact the seller but cannot (and do give him time to respond), that is a valid reason to cancel your bid. Do not send money to anyone who won’t answer phone calls or reply to emails.

Is the item in the correct category? Another method scammers will use to hide their skullduggery is to post items in obscure places. Instead of searching the entire Ebay universe for your item, specify your category.

Payment method is a very big deal. C.O.D. is great if they will go with it. Escrow.com is good (though a little pricy), and the only escrow Ebay recommends. Some criminals set up bogus sites that sound and look like Escrow.com, but do not be fooled. DO NOT use any other escrow site. PayPal is good too, up to a point, but the sale does not qualify for their $2000 protection unless it specifies that on the posting. In that case, the best you can hope for is the $200 coverage extended by Ebay (minus a $25 service fee). If you use PayPal, use your credit card rather than your own bank account. PayPal may try to persuade you to draw money directly from your bank account. Don’t do it. Many credit card issuers will refund money stolen from you. It is not fail-safe, but it is another layer of protection. Never use Western Union for these transactions. Western Union’s own web site will tell you that. Wire transfers and any kind of check is a one-way ticket to fraud.

Some second-chance offers are scam attempts, so be careful. If there is a hot-link on the page, take a look at the URL it points to when you roll your cursor over it. (The URL is usually displayed at the bottom of your web browser) There are fake Ebay and PayPal sites that attempt to steal your login information. If the URL does not start with “https:” it is not a secure site. Do NOT log in there!

Finally, do not wait until the last hour of the sale to get interested in it. If it is something you want, there is some homework for you to do. Give yourself the time to evaluate things and give the seller time to respond to your questions. Do not burn bridges, but do not allow yourself to be burned.

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