FBI Portland
Beth Anne Steele
(503) 460-8099
July 11, 2017

FBI Tech Tuesday - Building a Digital Defense Against Auction Fraud

Welcome to the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment. This week: building a digital defense against auction fraud.

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center recorded almost 200 reports of auction fraud just from Oregon victims in 2016.

There are two main ways people become victims in this scam. The first path to victimization involves the misrepresentation of a product advertised for sale through an Internet auction site. Perhaps the seller wants you to buy a high-end collectible or autographed piece of memorabilia. Maybe the fraudster tempts you with a rare automobile or a hard-to-get-new-video-game console.

When you get the item—you discover that the item is damaged, not-so-rare, or maybe even a shoddy copycat.

The second main pathway to victimization involves non-delivery of the item. You just paid thousands of dollars for a one-of-a-kind motorcycle, but it never shows up at your house. The seller disappears from the auction site, and your money goes with him.

So how do you protect yourself?

  • Before you bid, contact the seller with any questions and review the seller’s feedback from other customers. If the seller appears to be new to the site with few rated transactions, that should be a red flag.
  • If the seller tries to move you to a private deal outside of the auction site, refuse to go along.
  • Be cautious when dealing with sellers in foreign countries.
  • Ensure that you know the refund, return, and warranty policies of the auction site.
  • Confirm the shipping charges before you buy.
  • Be cautious if the seller only accepts wire transfers or cash.

In the end, remember that the auction site is just a facilitator. While the site may have some protections built into the system, it is really the third-party seller with whom you are dealing.

If you have been victimized by this scam or any other online scam, report your suspicious contacts to the FBI. You can file an online report at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov or call your FBI local office.