SCD6 Economic and Specialist Crime OCU is issuing warnings, as part of a crime prevention initiative against online Internet auction fraud and money transfer fraud.

Often people, who become the victims of fraud through online auction sites, are persuaded to send the money fraudulently obtained from them through money transfer service providers. This section of the fraud alert website aims to provide advice that hopefully will prevent you from becoming a victim of such frauds.

Internet auction – basics
Get to know the parameters set by the site – they are in place to ensure user safety. Read the safety advice provided by the on line auction site before trading. Never step outside of these or outside of the site no matter how enticing the deal. Fraudsters will try to trick you into doing this. Like any popular activity you must ensure you know ‘the rules of the game’ because ‘A little knowledge is a dangerous thing’.

When looking at an advertised item compare pricing. Beware of people offering you a deal below the current bid or reserve price, especially if they are contacting you direct. Remember ‘If an offer sounds too good to be true it probably is’.

Get to know the seller by looking at their selling history and the goods they sale. Be extremely careful around the payment method used for persons selling with little or no selling history.

Don’t get carried away in the excitement of winning an auction. Fraudsters rely on you being over keen and off your guard. It is never too late to ask questions of a seller to ensure that you are completely happy with what you are about to pay for. Do not follow through if you think it is a fraud, report the seller to the site.

Finally, if your site offers ‘second chance’ bidding on an auction verify that any notification of you qualifying for this ‘opportunity’ actually comes from the site and not from a fraudster impersonating them. You can do this by carefully checking the address from which the e-mail is sent or by contacting the site via its published website (Beware of using any hyperlinks or numbers attached to such a ‘notification’ as these may also be false).

“Always ask yourself, have I won the item, or have they won their next victim?”

Internet auction – payment

Never use money transfers as a payment method whenever someone suggests this to you, even if it is by the seller after you have ‘won’ the auctioned item or when approached to step outside the on line auction site. There is little security in this, no matter what the seller says, and you are effectively sending your hard earned cash to a stranger ‘on trust’ alone. See our Money transfer pages for further information.

Being extremely careful around direct banking transactions to pay for goods. There is still little security in this area also, which increases if the seller has no or little trading history with the on line auction site you are using. You are still effectively still sending your hard earned cash to a stranger ‘on trust’ alone. There have been instances where people have sent money to bank accounts and not received the goods. This has been more prevalent when dealing with people with no or little trading history on the auction site as a seller.

Use on the online payment options or a reputable ESCROW account to pay for items. ESCROW is a payment system where both buyer and seller’s financial details are held separately and in isolation by a legitimate third party company acting as ‘middleman’. The buyer makes their payment into the Escrow account. The payment is only made to the seller the goods have arrived and been deemed satisfactory by the buyer. By doing so your transactions will be better protected and often insured. Never enter an Escrow account site through a link in an email sent to you by anyone, as it has not been unknown for fraudsters to set up fake Escrow websites. Use a search engine to locate the website or enter your chosen Escrow site through it’s proper web address. Always check the url shown in your web browser address bar.

When a cheque is accepted for payment, please be aware that although your bank or building society may after three days state that it has ‘cleared’, this only means that the money has passed between the banks. You remain liable if the cheque that you have paid into your account is forged or stolen, this may not come to light until the cheque is received by the other bank or the bank account holder queries a transaction on their account. This may take longer than you anticipate. The money is then taken back from you account so you lose not only the items that you have shipped to the ‘Buyer’ but also the money that the buyer ‘paid’ for the goods.

A common trick that fraudsters use is known as ‘Criminal Cash Back’ where a seller accepts a cheque for an amount higher than the value of the transaction, often to pay a ‘shipping charge’ to the buyers ‘shipping agent’. This is actually paid to another fraudster who receives ‘clean’ money from you. You then find out at a later stage that although the cheque paid to you has ‘cleared’, it is a stolen or forged cheque, and you must pay the money back to your bank with no hope of getting the money back from the bogus ‘shipping agent’. See out pages on Criminal Cashback pages for further information.

Internet auction – account security

Protect your on line auction account details as you would your own bank account, whether it be your actual log in details and password to your auction account or your payment account. Do not become a victim of identity theft by revealing your name or account details. By aware of phishing emails that purport to come from the on line auction or payment site you are registered with, asking you to update your account or re-enter your details because your account has be suspended. To see two examples of a phishing emails purporting to be sent by on line auction site Ebay.

There are a number of factors that will indicate this is a phishing attack. In example 1 the following:

1. The email address, From: eBay Administration [] whilst looking like a genuine one from ebay is not correct as it reads instead of
2. Often these emails will contain links that sometimes take you to pages on the genuine website to give it an appearance of being genuine. But they also can take you to fake pages set up to represent the genuine website.
3. The link to up date your records, whilst looking genuine will take you a fake website, in this case Always check the url shown in your web browser bar.

Always enter your on line auction or payment site through it’s proper web address. Save this in your favourites. Never be tempted to enter it through a link sent to you, especially in an email, as it might lead you to a fake site and disclosure of your personal information. If your on line auction or payment site provides a toolbar down load that will advise you when you are on the genuine site, consider using this.

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