As the 2012 holiday shopping season kicks into high gear, the Consumer Fraud Task Force warns consumers to be alert for Internet grinches ready to sabotage your festivities.
The Task Force believes that online thieves will be working overtime during the next few weeks, running a variety of schemes designed to dupe customers out of their money.
The Task Force reminds consumers to beware of phony websites selling electronics and exercise equipment, Craigslist crooks offering non-existent or poor quality items for sale, or offers from fraudulent businesses posing as legitimate, well-known retailers.
In recent months, law enforcement and consumer groups across the nation have identified a variety of scams. Among them:
- Websites selling knockoff sports jerseys and other clothing items, usually at prices well below the market. Most of these businesses operate outside the U.S., and exchanges or refunds can prove difficult if not impossible.
- Sites selling a variety of electronic items, again at deeply reduced prices. Often operated out of China, these scammers sometimes ship poor quality items or nothing at all.
- Craigslist listings offering new or used items at attractive prices. Often, these thieves ask for payment via difficult-to-trace methods such as Western Union wire transfers or Green Dot Moneypak cards, and then never send the items. (A St. Louis woman reported last week that she lost $1,800 to a Craigslist scammer offering a Nissan Altima for sale).
- Internet sales of sports and celebrity autographs and other memorabilia. (A Joplin, Mo., man was charged with peddling record albums and sports collectibles with forged signatures on eBay. In another case, a man from suburban Portland, Ore., was sent to prison for selling fake Beatles and baseball items on Craigslist).
The Task Force suggests that consumers use caution when dealing with any unfamiliar individual or business. Be particularly wary of any transactions requiring difficult-to-trace payments like MoneyGram, Western Union or Green Dot.
- Check a site’s security settings. A secure site’s web address should begin with https://.
- Beware of offers that seem too good to be true. If the price of the item seems too low, it may signal a scam.
- Verify the length of time a business has operated and how long the website has been registered.
- Read and understand a company’s refund and exchange policies and know how long it will take to ship your item.
- Pay with a credit card if at all possible. Under federal law, you can dispute a credit card charge if you don’t receive an item.
- Keep all documents pertaining to your order until you receive the item or items and are satisfied.
- Contact the BBB for a BBB Business Review by going to www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.
To obtain information, or to report a scam, you may contact members of the Task Force:Better Business Bureau Serving Northern Indiana
– 1-800-552-4631 or 260.423.4433 or go to www.bbb.org
.Federal Trade Commission
– (877) FTC-HELP (877-382-4357); www.ftc.gov
.Indiana Attorney General
– (800) 382-5516
.U.S. Postal Inspection Service
– (877) 876-2455; postalinspectors.uspis.gov