Better Business Bureaus across the country are receiving reports of a new scam on Craigslist that deceives buyers by falsely claiming BBB accreditation and participation in a phony buyer’s protection program. BBB warns that there is no such thing as a BBB Purchase Protection Program and any online seller claiming participation in this program is scamming customers.
In its 2008 Internet Crime Report, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reported receiving 275,284 complaints, more than a 33 percent increase from 2007, with a total dollar loss from all fraud cases of $264.6 million. And scams involving non-delivered merchandise and/or payment were by far the most reported offense, comprising nearly 33 percent of all complaints.
“Consumers look for BBB Accredited Businesses and the BBB seal when evaluating the trustworthiness of businesses because the logo tells them that the business lives up to BBB’s rigorous standards,” said Steve Cox, BBB spokesperson. “Unfortunately, some businesses and scammers will lie to customers and falsely claim that they are accredited by BBB, therefore it’s important to verify BBB accreditation at the source at bbb.org.”
BBB has received reports from consumers from coast to coast who were shopping for items on Craigslist—such as golf bags and strollers—and came across an ad claiming that the seller was accredited by BBB. After inquiring about the item, the buyer received an e-mail from the seller. The e-mail explained that the seller was accredited by BBB and that they were a participant in the BBB Protection Program. This supposed program would protect the buyer should they not receive the items they paid for.
In truth, there is no such thing as a BBB Protection Program. Not only are these scammers lying about being accredited by BBB, but they also fraudulently use the BBB logo on their Web sites, overstockshop.biz and overstocksales.org, and have stolen images from the BBB Web site to mimic the layout and design used by BBB.
The scamming sellers use more than a dozen names including, Emma Lawley, Hollie West, Claudia Curtis, Mallory Downs, Stephanie Bradford, Elizabeth Stanford, Kristine Gilmore, and Linda Koller and have even gone so far as to create a fake BBB reliability report for each phony identity which is linked from—and hosted on—the scammer’s Web sites.
BBB contacted the Web hosting company of overstockshop.biz which suspended the scammer’s site. Since then, the scammers have set up shop at overstocksales.org and BBB is taking steps to have that site taken down as well.
BBB offers the following advice for verifying a company’s accreditation:
• Businesses will often post the BBB Accredited Seal on their Web site to show customers that they meet and uphold BBB’s standards. To verify accreditation, consumers should click on the BBB logo which will redirect them to either a confirmation page or the company’s reliability report hosted on the BBB Web site.
• Don’t just take a business’s word for it. Visit www.bbb.org and review the BBB Reliability Report and rating from BBB, as well as additional information on the business’s management and complaint history.
• Consumers who believe a business is fraudulently claiming BBB accreditation should notify their BBB and file a complaint either via letter, online at www.bbb.org or over the phone.
For more advice on how to avoid scams online and find trustworthy businesses, visit www.bbb.org.