Postal Inspectors: Online Sellers Beware

Newark, NJ -- You buy stuff online all the time -- so why not sell something on- line? Lots of people do it, from eBay to Craigslist. As with anything money related, U.S. Postal Inspectors warn of con-artists and their schemes. Usually, you hear buyer beware but today, it's a warning for the seller.

Computers, sports memorabilia, designer clothing and cars are just a few of the items offered for sale everyday on online auction sites. As the popularity of these sites has grown, even rare antiquities such as coins and bank notes are available. The common thread? All of these items, at one time or another, are being used to lure unsuspecting victims into a scam.

U.S. Postal Inspector Greg Botti said, "What they were doing was selling collectible and vintage bank notes through an online auction site." Legitimate sellers were selling those bank notes, nothing sketchy there. But a con-artist was on the other end purchasing them. Botti said, "The buyer would agree to buy the notes. Upon receipt, sometime would pass, he would say "I never received the items, or I only got part of the items' initiating a process called a credit card charge back." The scheme worked.

Postal Inspectors started tracking the case and found hundreds of victims and $120,000 in losses. Botti said, "The individual used dozens and dozens of credit cards, used various user ids through the auction sites to mask their identity. That is what allowed the frauds to be perpetrated over a lengthy period of time."

Inspectors recommend you take a picture of the item or items that you're selling if you're selling a unique item on the internet. Botti said, "A lot of times the item is very unique and may have a serial number." They also say you should keep any receipts from the post office, and any correspondence between you and the seller.

The suspect in this case has been charged with mail fraud and is awaiting trial. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.


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