The following statement was released on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014 by the Indiana Department of Homeland Security:
With the holidays and gift-buying season nearing, online scams become more prevalent. State authorities are alerting citizens to an alert issued by the FBI Cyber Division involving fraudulent online postings for the sale of automobiles, boats, recreational vehicles, and outdoor equipment.
Since June 2009, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center has received nearly 7,000 complaints regarding criminals targeting consumers through false advertisements for big ticket items. The scams total more than $20 million in losses.
The Indiana Department of Homeland Security, Indiana State Police and the Indiana Intelligence Fusion Center recommend consumers buy products from reputable sources after determining the legitimacy of the seller.
“During the holidays, shopping becomes even bigger business, and thieves try to take advantage of buyers,” said John Erickson, Indiana Department of Homeland Security. “Inspect the car, boat or other equipment prior to purchase, or don’t buy it.”.
Dave Bursten with the Indiana State Police, said, “A push by the seller for quick payment is cause for concern. The deal could be legitimate, but scammers use quick payment for a quick getaway. Only in very rare circumstances should anyone send money via a wire transfer on this type of purchase.”
In this particular scam, criminals post a false advertisement offering the item for sale. The advertisement usually includes a fraudulent photo. Within the advertisement, the criminal includes a contact telephone number. The consumer leaves a message and the perpetrator responds via text message. The text message normally requests that the consumer provide an e-mail address. Once the e-mail address is provided the consumer is sent additional details to include multiple images of the item for sale.
The perpetrator provides logical reasons for offering the item at such a discounted price such as moving to another location; therefore, the item needs to be sold quickly; the sale was part of a divorce settlement; or overseas deployment.
Other signs that an online purchase may be a scam:
Identification numbers don’t match insurance and other paperwork.
If the seller and vehicle, boat or other heavy equipment are in two different locations.
Shipping arrangements can’t be validated or the company can’t be verified.
“Not all of these warning signs mean the seller is trying to scam you,” Erickson said, “but it pays to verify and be cautious. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.”
In the bulletin, the FBI recommends:
§ Use search engines or other websites to research the advertised item or person/company selling the item.
§ Search the Internet for any negative feedback or reviews on the seller, their e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, or other searchable identifiers.
§ Research the company’s policies before completing a transaction. For example, independently verify that the seller accepts payments in the manner proposed (credit card, wire transfer, PayPal, etc.).
§ Be cautious when responding to advertisements and special offers.
§ Be cautious when dealing with persons/companies from outside the country.
§ Maintain records for all online transactions.
Anyone who suspects being the victim of an Internet-related crime may file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at http://www.IC3.gov
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