RealTime IT News

Feds to Combat Online Auction Fraud

Don't believe that it's really a kidney up for auction on eBay? A bit concerned that Britain's Millennium Dome is going for such a low price on Yahoo! Auctions? Not sure if that Mark McGuire rookie card you just bid on is authentic? A group of government law enforcement agencies Monday outlined a plan to help rid online auctions of these and other fraudulent listings.

The Federal Trade Commission, Department of Justice, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, National Association of Attorneys General and other federal, state and local law enforcers Monday announced a plan to crack down on auction wrongdoers. It includes training of law enforcers at every level about how to track and prosecute Internet scammers, as well as a consumer education campaign to stem fraudulent transactions.

Jodie Bernstein, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said the initiative was needed as the Internet auction space continues to grow. She said complaints about online auctions exploded from 107 in 1997 to 10,700 in 1999.

"We want Internet auction users and the online auction industry to know that the e-con artists who capitalize on them are 'going, going, gone,'" she said. "We don't intend to let a handful of rogues erode consumer confidence in Internet commerce or Internet auctions."

The agencies said they will track down auctioneers who do not deliver goods, as well as those who are obviously posting a bogus bid. For example, it's pretty clear that no one really has pieces of the Russian space station Mir to sell.

In its consumer awareness campaign, the FTC also will promote these cautious actions for buyers:

  • Identify the seller and check the seller's feedback rating
  • Do your homework -- make sure you understand what you're bidding on; its relative value; and all terms and conditions of the sale, including return policies and shipping costs
  • Establish a top price and stick to it
  • Evaluate payment options. If possible, use a credit card because if offers the most protection if there's a problem. If the seller doesn't accept credit cards, look into an escrow service