Avoid Falling Victim to Online Scam Artists

For many Americans and Canadians buying from online auction and classified sites has become the best way to locate deals.

Unfortunately, those sites are also a hotbed of con artists looking to make a quick buck.

Claude Painchaud, a retired parole officer, found this out the hard way, reports CTV.ca.

He was interested in a recreational vehicle he found on eBay Motors and was not worried about buying a vehicle sight-unseen online.

“I’ve bought and sold quite a few things on eBay and I thought I’d be better protected,” said Painchaud.

That’s because eBay and its financial transaction arm, PayPal, provides buyers with protection.

However the RV vendor convinced Painchaud to wire his money to a bank in Spain, and soon after Painchaud realized he had made a mistake.

“That night I found out with eBay you don’t wire money at all,” said Painchaud.

Unable to sleep Painchaud emailed the company and was repeatedly assured he was protected in the case of fraud.

Then he noticed the email address he was contacting did not look right: it had a few extra letters at the end.

“It wasn’t going back to eBay it was going back to him!” realized Painchaud. “He was using eBay as a scam.”

Painchaud called his Canadian bank. But it was too late—the money had already been wired, reports CTV.ca.

Desperate to stop the transaction, and able to speak Spanish, Painchaud made several phone calls to a bank in Valencia, Spain.

“They were able to stop it at the last minute,” said Painchaud.

Bank and fraud investigators in Spain told Painchaud that Romanian scam artists with accounts in Valencia are targeting Americans, Canadians, and Europeans on auction websites.

“We’re talking millions, millions of dollars—and it’s on the increase,” Painchaud told CTV.ca.

Police say too often people just say goodbye to their money because they feel powerless or are too embarrassed to admit they’ve been had.

Painchaud’s instincts, his persistence, and his knowledge of the Spanish language paid off.

“I was extremely fortunate that we were able to get this money back. A ten thousand dollar hit in my bank account would have been disastrous,” said Painchaud.

Painchaud has phoned eBay several times and never received a response; however, the company has issued a warning about scams on Craiglist that promise eBay protection packages. eBay says its protection programs only apply to eBay purchases.

The company also has a list of common warning signs of fraud. They include:

  • Deals that are too good to be true
  • A seller who says they can’t meet the buyer, or show off the item for sale
  • A seller who claims to have made arrangements with eBay’s vehicle purchase protection or finance centers
  • A seller who requests payment by a money wire like Western Union or Moneygram

For those who have already wired money out of their account very little can be done.

Often the only way to recover money is if the receiving party agrees to return it.

Those who think they have been a victim of fraud should file a police report, and contact their bank branch. Those agencies need check numbers, copies of all emails, and money order receipts.

Unfortunately, con artists are becoming more sophisticated and fraudulent activities are on the rise. Local police departments and federal agencies such as the FBI are overburdened with mounting cases of identity theft and fraud.

Banks and shipping companies are also aware of these scams, but seldom intervene on your behalf. Thus, it is becoming increasingly important to learn how to protect yourself from these threats.

Worth Pondering…
Where there are sales, there are scam artists.

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