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 The Internet can be a guiding light or a black hole. 

DO NOT TRUST ANYONE YOU MEET ON THE INTERNET WHEN MONEY IS INVOLVED

      
     Never, never
purchase anything on an Internet auction without using a reliable escrow company.  Would you give a large amount of cash to a stranger who came to your door selling a product that he promised to bring by within a few days?  Would you give a stranger a valuable item at your garage sale on the promise that a check would be brought to you the next day?  Then why would you mail perfect strangers money and products to locations that often turn out to be private post offices and expect the person to honor your agreement?  Times have changed.  It is the rare person whose word is his bond.  Protect yourself by using a third party escrow company to buy or sell anything on the Internet.  If you have been scammed already, report the theft to the authorities below. 

      If you received a counterfeit money order or check to pay for an item you were selling, go to the CUFF Counterfeit Check Page for help.  If you deposited a counterfeit check into your bank account, you will be liable for any money you withdrew against the check.  In some cases, victims have even been charged criminally.

     
Buying or selling on an auction site or through an online community?  Then you better read
the scam warning on Craig's List.   Auction sites know how difficult it is to identify and prosecute Internet
scammers.  You better know, too.


NEWS: EBay Goes to Romania to Fight Fraud
- The Private Sector Steps In to Help Law Enforcement 
            Fight Fraud - 12/26/2007


           
Internet Auction Crime Tops List of Cybercrimes - 11/17/06
            According to Wired Magazine's 7/06 issue, auction fraud was the most reported of all online fraud in 2005.
          
Excerpt from:   Stopping auction-site fraud

   

 Stopping auction-site fraud

  Researchers' software searches for suspicious patterns.

   By Joe Mandak
  Associated Press - 12/17/2006

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are relying on an adage to develop antifraud software for Internet auction sites: It's not what you know, it's who you know.

At sites like eBay, users warn one another if they have a bad experience with a seller by rating their transactions. But the CMU researchers said savvy fraudsters got around that by conducting transactions with friends or even themselves, using alternative user names, to give themselves high satisfaction ratings - so unsuspecting customers will still try to buy from them.

The CMU software looks for patterns of users who have repeated dealings with one another, and alerts other users that there is a higher probability of having a fraudulent transaction with them.

"There's a lot of commonsense solutions out there, like being more careful about how you screen the sellers," said Duen Horng "Polo" Chau, the research associate who developed the software with computer science professor Christos Faloutsos and two other students. "But because I'm an engineering student, I wanted to come up with a systematic approach" to identify those likely to commit fraud.

The researchers analyzed about one million transactions involving 66,000 eBay users to develop graphs - known in statistical circles as bipartite cores - that identify users interacting with unusual frequency. They plan to publish a paper on their findings early next year and, perhaps, market their software to eBay or otherwise make it available to people who shop online.

Online-auction fraud - when a seller does not deliver goods or sells a defective product - accounted for 12 percent of the 431,000 computer-fraud complaints received last year by Consumer Sentinel, the Federal Trade Commission's consumer-fraud and identity-theft database. Auction fraud was the most commonly reported computer-related fraud in the database.

And the scams run the gamut:

Last year (2005), a federal grand jury indicted an Ohio man on charges that he sold hundreds of thousands of dollars of stolen Lego merchandise on the Internet.

Earlier this year (2006), a New Mexico woman was sentenced to nine years in federal prison for selling forged hunting licenses on eBay, over the phone, and by e-mail, and then not delivering trips paid for by out-of-state hunters.

In December 2006, a man who failed to deliver tickets for the 2005 Ohio State-Michigan football game to 250 online auction customers was sentenced to 34 months in federal prison.

 
  FILE A CRIMINAL REPORT  

    
Here's why you should always file a criminal report for Internet fraud: 
     
Man Convicted of Fraud Totaling $255,000 For Selling Phony Superbowl Tickets on e-Bay - 5/2006
      The Cost of One Man's Fraud for Selling Phony Superbowl Tickets on eBay - 5/7/06
    
  Local Residents Become Victims of Computer Fraud - California - 5/27/06
     
Coin Dealer Sentenced to Five Years for Defrauding Buyers on eBay - 11/21/06
      21 Charged in International e-Bay Fraud Scheme that Cost 2000 Victims Over $5 Million - 12/12/06

 
 
 
   Internet Crime Complaint Center - Operated in coordination with the FBI 
   Federal Trade Commission Scam Complaint Center -  File a complaint for Internet scams
   Consumer Sentinel -  Fraud Reporting Agency Sponsored by National and International 
   Law Enforcement Agencies
   Federal Trade Commission's Online Complaint Form for online shopping and auction fraud
   U.S. Postal Inspection Service - File a mail fraud complaint
   National Consumers League's National Fraud Information Center
   CANADIAN VICTIMS - Report fraud in Canada to Phonebusters.com
   Reporting Economic Crime Online - Canada
   UNITED KINGDOM VICTIMS - Report fraud to Scotland Yard
   American Embassies Worldwide  - If you were defrauded by a person or business in a foreign country, 
   provide the details to the American Embassy in that country.  They deal directly with local and national
   law enforcement agencies in that country and can provide assistance to you if they choose.  Even if they 
   are unable to help you, the information you provide them may become important if other victims also
   file a report against the same business or individual.  Since money laundering operations and terrorist
   funding are located worldwide, it is impossible for law enforcement to be aware of every possible
   source unless the victims make them aware.  
  
  REPORT AN EBAY FRAUD TO EBAY SECURITY


  
ebay Security Center
 
  REPORT A FRAUDULENT E-MAIL TO PAYPAL
 
spoof@paypal.com
  REPORT A BUSINESS TO CONSUMER AGENCIES

   Better Business Bureau
  
Troubleshooter.com
   Consumer World - Links to government agencies that handle consumer complaints

   The Rip Off Report

   WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU REPORT AN INTERNET FRAUD

     All federal agencies, including the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the FTC have minimum financial thresholds that must be met before they will investigate a fraud or theft.  The dollar amount varies but is usually well above $50,000 and recent information is putting it in the six-figure range.  This does not mean that an agency will not investigate your fraud but it does mean that you should expect some resistance if your losses are below their threshold.

    Always report your theft to your local police department, even if you are filing a federal complaint.  If your police department tells you that you should report the theft not to them but to the jurisdiction where the thief lives, then do it.  Protocols are different in each jurisdiction.  CUFF will help you identify and locate the thief if you do not have this information   The burgeoning fraud created by the ease of Internet commerce has overwhelmed local law enforcement and many agencies do not have the resources to handle the complaints - but do it anyway.

     It is important that you register your complaint so that the thief will be put into the system.  Eventually, if enough victims file charges against the same person or business, an investigation is more likely to be initiated.  AND you want to make sure your crime is added to the growing fraud statistics tally as this what will eventually prod legislators to increase the funding for law enforcement.


GETTING YOUR MONEY BACK

    
When you lose money through an Internet scam, the chances of getting your money back are akin to getting your television back after an unknown burglar steals it from your home while you are away on vacation.  It happens only in the rarest of circumstances.  However, you do have some options if the person lives in the U.S.

     First, you can pursue criminal charges through the proper agency, and if this happens and the thief is convicted, you can ask for restitution as part of the sentencing.  Depending on the state and county, the thief may remain on probation until the money is repaid.

     Second, you can sue the person in court in order to obtain a civil judgment.  This judgment will allow you to have the thief's personal property seized, his bank account levied and his paycheck garnisheed.  This is a very good option if the thief is employed and has assets.  Unfortunately, the majority of the people who scam do not have stable employment or assets.

     However, it you obtain a judgment against someone, you can hand it over to a judgment recovery specialist, which is a collector who goes after judgment debtors.  This person will have a financial motivation to find your money, and the fee you pay, which is generally 30% to 50% of the money collected, may be worth it.  50% of something is better than 100% of nothing.  AND you will have obtained justice because the thief will have had to give back the stolen money.

JOHN DOE LAWSUITS CAN HELP IDENTIFY UNKNOWN FRAUDSTERS    

     If you do not know the true identity of the person who defrauded you, you may be able to file a civil suit in your county using a John Doe for the defendant's name.  You would need to provide all the e-mails, letters, wire transfers, etc. that show you do not know the identity or location of the defendant but that you have a clear basis for your civil claims.  

    Your purpose is not to file for a judgment initially but to obtain a subpoena for the ISP and e-mail providers of the unknown fraudster in order to obtain the person's name and address so that you can file a civil suit.  It is also possible to subpoena eBay and PayPal for information they have on the person's true identity if the fraudster used their services in the fraudulent transaction. This is the legal process used to obtain the identities of the unknown defendants in the music download trials and by large corporations such as Microsoft to sue Web site owners for
spam.    

    You may be told by your county court to file the suit in federal district court if the fraudster is located in another state.  This is the court in which Microsoft and other corporations have had to file.  The fee for filing is around $350.00.


    Here are some links to information on John Doe suits: 

     http://www.ceas.cc/papers-2005/174.pdf
     http://digitalmusic.weblogsinc.com/2006/08/07/the-riaa-vs-john-doe-a-laypersons-guide-to-filesharing-lawsui/
     http://www.ciol.com/content/search/showarticle1.asp?artid=82361

   Once you obtain a monetary judgment, however, you should know that it is only valid in the county and/or state where it was issued.  In order for it to be recognized in another county and/or state, it must be filed as a foreign judgment.  Often this means the case must be heard by a judge in the county where it is being filed as a foreign judgment.  If it was a default judgment, the chances are even better that the count will not rubber stamp it without hearing the case.  

    To see an overview of what is available to a plaintiff in a small claims court suit, go to CUFF's Get Even Legally Page.

    WHAT TO DO WHEN LAW ENFORCEMENT WON'T HELP

     If you were scammed in an eBay auction, file a complaint with eBay, then go to the feedback section on buyers and sellers and review all feedback on your thief.  Send a message to all consumers who had negative comments and ask if they encountered problems with this person that could be added to yours.  If you are able to collect three or four other victims and you collectively report the fraud to the jurisdiction where the thief lives, you will increase the chances of the police investigating your charges.

     If you think it is time for Congress to provide an easy, centralized method for reporting Internet fraud and that extraordinarily high minimum thresholds should not be set for interstate fraud investigation, then please send the CUFF letter to your congressman and senators: CUFF Letter to Congress regarding Internet Fraud  A study has revealed that it takes only five e-mails to a congressman or senator to elicit an interest in an issue.  This is the old cockroach theory - you see one and you know there are hundreds of others somewhere out there.  Let your legislators know you are out here.

    If you need assistance in identifying and locating the person who defrauded you, CUFF will provide the research for $59.00. Complete the Fraud Report order form It is possible that the person who defrauded you has also defrauded others in a similar scam.  By providing law enforcement with the fraudster's identity and location, it will simplify the case for law enforcement and encourage them to act quicker than they might otherwise.  You should be aware, however, that if you were defrauded by someone living outside the U.S., the chances are very slim that federal law enforcement agencies will investigate unless the losses meet the minimum financial threshold. 

    Because drug-related and violent crime are consuming most of law enforcement's resources, fraud is being pushed to the back of the line.  If that's where they put your case, don't give up. You should still file a police report and report the crime to the federal agencies noted above, even if your case is not investigated.  Fraud is the most under-reported of all crimes because the victims feel embarrassment for their "willing" participation.  This is one of the reasons that it is not investigated with the kind of vigor that would eventually make a difference.  You should report your crime even if it is only added to the crime statistics.  Eventually, legislators and law enforcement will recognize that it is has reached an epidemic level and will begin to take it seriously. 

    When CUFF researches a case, if we uncover an outstanding warrant  for the subject, we will publish the information for free in the CUFF Fugitive Database so others can help with the search.  If you already know that the person has an outstanding warrant or criminal history, you can Submit the person to the CUFF Fugitive Database for free. This database is not searchable on the Internet until CUFF verifies the warrant and your personal information will not be given to anyone unless you authorize it.  When it is published, anyone can search the database for free using 48 different search criteria, including the subject's physical description, aliases, background information and keywords.

   
 If our research uncovers a criminal history or recorded civil judgments, we will publish this information in the CUFF Fugitive Database also.

    
You can also submit the person to the Internet Swindlers Database, which is a proprietary database that is not searchable on the Internet but is used by CUFF to match names and MO's of swindlers in order to provide information to law enforcement.  CUFF matches each submission with con artists already in the database to see if the person has been entered already.  If so, we will send you the e-mail address of the other victim(s) and allow you to discuss your frauds, if you choose.  If information is produced which substantiates a pattern of fraud, CUFF will provide a free background search on the con artist and begin an investigation to determine whether or not there might be evidence to convince law enforcement to charge the person with fraud. 

   
   If you don't believe the criminal justice system is equipped to handle the growing epidemic of fraud, join CUFF, America's fastest growing grassroots anti-fraud movement that is working to change the laws and social attitude which have contributed to the laxity in prosecution.  

      Review the links and information above and if you feel you still need additional help or have questions, contact CUFF in the Contact form.  Do not e-mail us as we may not open an e-mail if we do not recognize the sender.