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Howard Ain, Troubleshooter: Online Auction Scams

CINCINNATI (Howard Ain) -- You can buy or sell just about anything on the internet but you've got to be wary of scams.

Computers, sports memorabilia, designer clothing and cars, these are just a few of the items offered for sale everyday on online auction sites.
 
As the popularity of these sites has grown, even rare antiquities such as coins and bank notes, are available. The common thread? All of these items, at one time or another, are being used to lure unsuspecting victims into a scam. "And what they were doing was selling collectible and vintage bank notes through an online auction site," says U.S. Postal Inspector Greg Botti.
 
Legitimate sellers were selling those bank notes but a con-artist was on the other end purchasing them. "The buyer would agree to buy the notes. Upon receipt, some time would pass, he would say "I never received the items, or I only got part of the items' initiating a process called a credit card charge back."
 
The scheme worked. Postal inspectors started tracking the case and found hundreds of victims and $120,000 in losses. "The individual used dozens and dozens of credit cards, used various user IDs through the auction sites to mask their identity. That is what allowed the frauds to be perpetrated over a lengthy period of time."
 
Inspectors recommend: If you are selling a unique item on the internet,
"take a picture of the item or items that you're selling. A lot of times the item is very unique and may have a serial number."
 
Also keep any receipts from the post office as well as any correspondence between you and the seller. Inspectors say consumers need to protect themselves against these scam artists who are motivated by one thing, "getting money from people through lies and deceit."

The suspect in this case has been charged with mail fraud and is awaiting trial. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

If you feel you're the victim of fraud in an online transaction contact your state's attorney general's office and the postal inspector.

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