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Fraud Ring Makes Off with Millions Using Obvious Tactics

By Olivia Leigh in News on Dec 13, 2006 8:15PM

We admit it. We’re whores for eBay. Few things are quite as exhilarating as making off with brand new pair of Prada pumps for $95, or a $1,000 darkroom set for $175. With the bountiful deals, however, also comes cutthroat last-minute bidding, and occassionally, agonizing defeat.

Some Chicagoans, answering to bosses in Romania, recently played on eBay shoppers’ passion for good deal through an Internet fraud scheme believed to involve more than $5 million in scammed money.

2006_12_scam.jpgThe swindlers used three basic methods to get cash. The most popular way involved an e-mail to an unsuccessful auction bidders, offering him or her a “second-chance offer” –a fairly common practice -- to buy expensive items such as cars, ATV's, motorcycles, trailers and even farm equipment. U.S. Atty. Brian Hayes said members of the fraud ring would sometimes offer “the exact item that people had bid on previously, saying that the guy who was going to purchase it had fallen through.”

Individuals who took advantage of the offer were then directed to send money via the obviously sketchy Western Union money order method to an individual in the Chicago area. It goes without saying that, sadly, no tractors or Nissans reached the [un]lucky Second Chance bidders.

Another scam involved a victim receiving an e-mail from the ring members, stating that their account would be deleted within 24 hours if they did not e-mail their password and other account information. After receiving the necessary details, the scammers would assume the eBay account and scam other users.

The final method involved the criminals bidding on eBay items, and then saying they could not pay with the common eBay payment service, PayPal. Instead, they would manage to convince trusting sellers to put money into an escrow account, which would disappear after the item was shipped.

While we’re certainly glad 21 members of the ring – including eight Chicagoans – were charged with wire fraud yesterday, we can’t help but think many of the scams could have been avoided with a bit of common sense. Don’t send a money order to a non-established business, especially when you’re purchasing a big ticket item. Don’t ever send passwords or sensitive information via e-mail. And don’t ship items until you’ve received payment.

Common sense, people. It’s a good thing.