EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 78 - September 08, 2002 - ISSN 1528-6703     3 of 6

Online Auction Fraud: What You Should Know, Part 3

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This is Part 3 of a 3-part series on online-auction fraud. Part 1 may be found at Part 2 may be found at

What to Do If You Are Ripped Off

Many times, problems arise over poor communications between buyers and sellers. You should do everything you can to contact the seller and resolve problems, and you can use dispute resolution services like Square Trade However, if you believe that the seller has defrauded you, you should immediately file a complaint with eBay.

You should also inform as many law enforcement agencies as you can on the federal, state, and local level, both in your area and in the perpetrator's location. You can never be sure which agency has the expertise and resources to pursue the case.

Stephen Treglia, Assistant D.A. and Chief of the Technology Crime Unit at the Nassau County District Attorney's Office in New York, recommends using escrow services to avoid auction fraud, and, whenever possible, using credit cards to make online auction purchases.

If you are a victim of fraud on eBay, Treglia said you should save every scrap of paper and every email you get. If prosecutors can determine that the seller made false representations or gave false instructions to the victim, the records can be used as evidence in a trial. There may even be leads in the emails, he said.

Each jurisdiction is different in how they handle cases, and each state has its own laws. Treglia said he can't force a seller located outside the state come to New York to stand trial unless it is a felony crime. That is why it is important to contact state and local law enforcement officials in the perpetrator's own state as well as your own.


eBay says that the incidence of confirmed fraud on its site is less than one one-hundredth of one percent of all the listings on its site. eBay uses its insurance company's figure, using stricter definitions than an unhappy buyer might use.

Stephen Treglia agrees that fraud takes place on a very small percentage of online auctions. But, he said, "If it appears too good to be true, it usually is."


Online Auction Fraud: What to Do If You Are Ripped Off

1) File a complaint with eBay File a report immediately with eBay Rules & Safety: In order to be considered for eBay's Fraud Protection Program, you should also submit an Online Fraud Complaint at 30 days after the listing end-date.

2) File a complaint with the FTC$.startup$.startup

3) File a complaint with the Internet Fraud Complaint Center

4) Contact law-enforcement officials at the local and state level (your local and state police departments)

5) Also contact law-enforcement officials in the perpetrator's town & state

6) File a complaint with the shipper USPS

7) File a complaint with the National Fraud Information Center

8) File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau


Editor's Note: This is Part 3 of a 3-part series on online-auction fraud. The series was originally published as a complete article in the June 2002 issue of "The CyberSkeptic's Guide to Internet Research," a subscription print newsletter published by BiblioData

Part 1 may be found at

Part 2 may be found at

You can also get more information on the AuctionBytes forums at

About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to

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