FBI Portland
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July 17, 2018

FBI Tech Tuesday: Building a Digital Defense Against Online Auction Fraud

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

We are now fully into summer. With vacations already planned and paid for, many are short on the cash needed to buy those odds and ends for around the house. Instead of paying top dollar at the store, many are turning to online auctions as a way to save money. Such auctions are a great option—if you know how to use them safely.

Most auction sites have rules for both the buyer and the seller. Take time to familiarize yourself to the auction site and all its policies before you bid on anything. Pay special attention to details about payment information, privacy policies, and insurance. Also, before using, make sure that the sites where you register, sign in, and bid are secure. Chances are that if the site URL starts with “https,” the page is secure. However, to be safe, try to pay with a credit card that comes with fraud protection. Additionally, take your time to research what other people have to say about the website. Look for reviews or complaints that indicate that a buyer either got a faulty product or never received what they bid on.

These scam artists have been doing it for a while and know exactly what to say and do to steal your money. Here are some warning signs:

  • The seller only has a generic photo of the item. You cannot be sure that the seller actually has the item if there isn't a current picture.
  • A “brand name” product is marked down or on sale for a price much lower than normal. This product could be counterfeit.
  • If you see words such as “used”, “old”, or “vintage”, the item may not be in the best condition.
  • Do not use the “Friends and Family” money transfer method to pay for items, as buyers are not eligible for fraud protection through this method.
  • Do not pay for items using gift cards. These requests almost always indicate a scam since the “seller” can cash out the cards immediately and the auction site has no way to verify that payment.
  • The seller insists on communicating or paying outside of the auction site’s payment system. The seller might insinuate that the system is too slow and that he needs the money right away to send you your product. No matter what story he tells you, don’t send money outside the established payment system!
  • You get an email stating that you need to verify your account or reply to confirm your purchase of a product. If this happens, go to the auction site itself to log in. There you will be able to see if the site really sent you an email. If so, you can respond there and avoid clicking on any potentially compromising links.

If you have been victimized by an online overpayment scam or any other cyber fraud, be sure to report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call your local FBI office.