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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.

Understand 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.

Avoid cash payments.
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.

Let the 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 nonrelevant.

US 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.

For example:
PO BOX 2000
PASADENA CA 91102-2000
Phone : 626-405-1200
Fax : 626-405-1207

Federal Trade Commission: Consumer Protection
FTC: File A Complaint
Verify the 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.

Find out 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.

When considering 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.

Read the 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.

After you 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 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.

IFCC: Internet Fraud Complaint Center
IFCC: 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:

  1. Your name, address, and telephone number.
  2. The name, address, telephone number, and Web address, if available, of the individual or organization you believe defrauded you.
  3. Specific details on how, why, and when you believe you were defrauded.
  4. Any other relevant information you believe is necessary to support your complaint.
  5. How are complaints resolved?

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.

What happens 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.
Retaining 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.



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