March 1, 2014
CHARLESTON — Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has issued a precaution to consumers that are buying items from online sellers after a Fairmont woman reported losing several thousand dollars to a Craigslist scammer in February.
In this particular case, the buyer was looking for an all-terrain vehicle to help clear snow and found one through a posting on Craigslist, an online classified advertisement website. She made contact with the seller who provided her with not only photos of the ATV, but the name of a supposed “attorney” to make the buyer feel more secure. After working out an initial payment through an online transfer per the seller’s instructions, a period of time passed and the seller asked for another payment prior to shipment of the vehicle that was not previously discussed. At this point, the seller became wary, but it was too late, and she was already out thousands of dollars.
“It’s really unfortunate that these scammers take advantage of difficult situations like the bad weather we had throughout February to exploit trusting consumers,” Morrisey said. “Trying times may cause someone to act more quickly than they ordinarily would, and in that case, they could miss some of those red flags we typically see with scams like these.”
These types of scams can happen at any time, not just during a natural disaster or weather event. They’re fairly common, but protecting yourself isn’t hard. Here are a few ways you can safeguard yourself while looking for deals:
Whenever possible, deal locally with people you’re able to meet in person. According to Craigslist, following this single rule would eliminate 99 percent of all scam attempts.
Do not wire funds or send money via pre-paid debit cards. Once that money is gone, it’s gone forever. It’s like sending cash.
Be wary of a seller who asks for your financial information to complete a transaction. A seller who asks you to do this is most likely a scammer.
“Many people who buy and sell on these online classified sites are honest people, but there are always a few bad apples in the bunch,” Morrisey said. “With just a little extra precaution, you can spot these scammers and avoid becoming their next victim.”
If you spot one of these scams online or have been the victim of one, please call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808. If you believe you have been a victim of identity theft, call local law enforcement, and the Federal Trade Commission at 877-438-4338 or go online to www.ftc.gov/idtheft.