How to handle fraud:
If you are actually a victim of fraud, you need to report that to the
right authorities. If you sent the seller payment via the post office
or to a PO box, contact the Postal Service and file charges. For any online
fraud, you can file a complaint on the Internet with the Internet Fraud
Complaint Center, run by the FBI. The National Fraud Information Center
can also help you. You can contact them on the Internet or by phone. Check
their web site for information.
how the auction works:
Auction sites are a facilitator, they don't verify that the merchandise
actually exists or is described accurately, nor do they guarantee that
auction participants will keep their promises.
Check the seller's feedback comments based on previous transactions.
Keep in mind that glowing reports might be "planted" by the seller and
negative comments could be from a competitor.
When dealing with private individuals: BEWARE that many consumer protection
laws and government agencies that enforce them don't deal with private
sales, others will only if there is criminal fraud involved, so if you
have a problem it could be difficult to resolve.
Dealing with buyers or sellers in other countries: the physical distance,
difference in legal systems, and other factors could make resolving it
even more difficult.
Ask about delivery, returns, warranties, and service before you pay. Get
a definite delivery time and insist that the shipment is insured. Ask
about the return policy. If you're buying electronic goods or appliances,
find out if there is a warranty and how to get service.
For the buyer, a seller requesting cash can be a danger sign of fraud.
For sellers, accepting cash makes it difficult to prove how much was paid
if there is a dispute later.
Payment by credit card can protect both buyer and seller.
Credit card payment protects the buyer because you can dispute the charges
if the goods are misrepresented or never delivered. For sellers, payment
by credit card is quicker than waiting for a check or money order in the
mail and avoids the problem of bad checks.
Consider using an escrow service. Escrow services are another good payment
option. For a small fee, an escrow service holds the buyer’s payment and
forwards it to the seller upon the buyer’s receipt and approval of the
item within an agreed upon inspection period For buyers, escrow services
can help ensure that they get what they pay for. Sellers may find escrow
services less expensive than participating in the credit card payment
system, especially if the buyer pays the fee, and they avoid the problems
of bad checks or stolen credit cards. Escrow services may also help both
parties by "refereeing" disputes. Ask if the service is licensed and bonded
and how you can confirm that with the appropriate agency.
auction site know if you have a problem.
Some sites investigate problems like "shills" being used to bid prices
up or other abuses of the auction system. They may also want to know about
sellers who don't deliver or misrepresent their wares and buyers who act
in bad faith. Complaints may result in users being barred from the site.
Try mediation to resolve disputes. Not all problems are due to fraud;
buyers or sellers may simply fail to hold up their parts of the bargain
in a timely manner, or there may be a legitimate disagreement about something
Postal Inspection Service (Inspection
Service Office Locator)
Congress empowered the Postal Service "to investigate postal offenses
and civil matters relating to the Postal Service." Through its security
and enforcement functions, the Postal Inspection Service provides assurance
to American businesses for the safe exchange of funds and securities through
the U.S. Mail; to postal customers of the "sanctity of the seal" in transmitting
correspondence and messages; and to postal employees of a safe work environment.
As fact-finding and investigative agents, Postal Inspectors are federal
law enforcement officers who carry firearms, make arrests and serve federal
search warrants and subpoenas. Inspectors work closely with U.S. Attorneys,
other law enforcement agencies and local prosecutors to investigate postal
cases and prepare them for court. There are approximately 2,000 Postal
Inspectors stationed throughout the United States who enforce over 200
federal laws covering investigations of crimes that adversely affect or
fraudulently use the U.S. Mail and postal system.
POSTAL INSPECTION SERVICE
UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE
PO BOX 2000
PASADENA CA 91102-2000
Phone : 626-405-1200
Fax : 626-405-1207
Trade Commission: Consumer Protection
File A Complaint
seller's identity before you place your bid, and be wary of sellers who
you can't identify. Some sellers may use a forged e-mail header,
which makes follow-up contact close to impossible. Get a telephone number
for the seller and use it to confirm that you have some way other than
e-mail to contact the seller. Check to see how the seller has treated
other buyers. Some auction sites post feedback ratings of sellers based
on comments by other buyers. This may give you some idea of how you'll
be treated, but beware of "shill" testimonials. Before you bid, find out
what form of payment the seller will accept. If the seller accepts only
cashier's checks or money orders, decide whether you are willing to take
the risk of sending your payment before you receive the product.
who pays for shipping and delivery. Generally, sellers specify
the cost of shipping the item and give buyers the option of express delivery
for an additional fee. If you're uncertain about shipping costs, check
with the seller before you bid. Check on the seller's return policy. Can
you return the item for a full refund if you're not satisfied with it?
If you return it, are you required to pay shipping costs or a restocking
fee? If you have any questions about the item, e-mail or phone the seller.
Don't place your bid until your questions have been answered.
whether to place a bid, know exactly what you're buying. Read
the seller's description of the item or service, and if a photograph is
posted, take time to look at it closely. Try to determine the relative
value of an item before you bid. There's no guarantee that something is
a good deal just because it's on the Internet auction block. "Brick-and-mortar"
stores and online price-trading sites may be good reality checks on price.
If you find a bargain at an auction site, remember the adage about deals
that seem too good to be true. They usually are.
fine print. Look for words like "refurbished," "close-out,"
"discontinued" or "off- brand," especially when shopping for computer
gear or electronic equipment. Consider whether the item comes with a warranty,
and where you'll get follow-up service if you need it. Many sellers don't
have the expertise or facilities to provide services for the goods they
sell. If that's the case with your seller, be sure you're willing to forfeit
that protection before placing a bid. Know the Auction Site
If you decide
to enter the bidding, proceed with caution. Establish your
top price and stick to it. Don't bid on an item you don't intend to buy.
Remember that if you're the highest bidder, you are obligated to follow
through with the transaction. Auction companies often bar "non- paying
bidders" — those who back out of a deal — from future bidding. When bidding,
take steps to protect your privacy. Don't give out personal identifying
information like your Social Security number, driver's license number
or bank account number. No seller should need it. Save all your transaction
information. Print or make note of the seller's identification, the item
description and the time, date and price you bid on the item. Print and
save a copy of every e- mail you send or receive from the auction company
or the seller.
receive an e-mail with news that you've "won" an auction, arrange to pay
for your purchase. Pay with a credit card, if possible, but
it's likely that the seller will require payment by certified check or
money order. If you're not comfortable sending a certified check or money
order to the seller, consider using an escrow service or paying for your
item cash on delivery.
If you run
into a problem during your transaction, try to work it out directly with
the seller or with the auction web site. If that doesn't work,
file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission by calling toll-free
1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357) or visiting the FTC's web site at www.ftc.gov.
Although the Commission cannot resolve individual problems for consumers,
it can act against a company if it sees a pattern of possible law violations.
You also may want to contact your state Attorney General or your local
consumer protection office.
Internet Fraud Complaint Center
File A Complaint
IFCC accepts on-line Internet fraud complaints from either the person
who believes they were defrauded or from a third party to the complaint.
We can best process your complaint if we receive accurate and complete
information from you. Therefore, we request that you provide the following
information at this Web site:
- Your name,
address, and telephone number.
- The name,
address, telephone number, and Web address, if available, of the individual
or organization you believe defrauded you.
details on how, why, and when you believe you were defrauded.
- Any other
relevant information you believe is necessary to support your complaint.
- How are
We thoroughly review and evaluate each complaint so that we may refer
it to the appropriate local, state, or federal agency. Every complaint
that is referred goes to one or more law enforcement or regulatory agencies
that have jurisdiction over that matter.
Once we refer a complaint to the appropriate agency, it may then be assigned
to an investigator. We therefore ask that you provide a phone number in
the event an investigator needs to contact you for additional information.
IFCC cannot guarantee that your complaint will be investigated.
after you file a complaint? After you file a complaint at the
IFCC Web site, you will receive an e-mail containing a copy of the complaint
you filed. You will also receive a complaint number to be used as a reference.
If at any time you have further information you wish to report regarding
your complaint, use the complaint number in the subject line of your e-mail
to ensure it is properly directed to your complaint file. As Internet
fraud complaints are reported on line, IFCC electronically compiles the
data. Trained analysts review and research each complaint, disseminating
information to the appropriate local, state, or federal law enforcement
agencies for criminal, civil or administrative action, as needed.
evidence related to your complaint It is important that you
keep any evidence you may have related to your complaint. Evidence may
include canceled checks; credit card receipts; phone bills; faxes; pamphlets
or brochures; mailing envelopes; certified or other mail receipts; a printed
copy of a Web site, chat room, or newsgroup text; or similar items. Keep
items in a safe location until you are requested to provide them for investigative
or prosecutive evidence. If requested to provide evidence, send copies
only, not originals.