Buyers Tips

Shopping Safely Online

Online Fraud Red Flags
The Internet is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and offers shopping that can be just as safe as stores or mail orders. But unless consumers learn to identify online fraud indicators, those who buy online can open themselves up to the same scams that are common with offline shopping.

On the Web, cyberspace crooks have the potential to perpetuate scams quickly, leaving no paper trails and bypassing all geographic boundaries. Others may be legal but sneaky. Some common "red flags" are:

Internet Auctions:
Online auctions can be an affordable and convenient way to buy and sell almost any kind of property. However, complaint statistics compiled by the Federal Trade Commission consistently place Internet action fraud at or near the top in annual complaints. Those complaints generally deal with late shipments, no shipments, or shipments of products that aren't the same quality as advertised; bogus online payment or escrow services; and fraudulent dealers who lure bidders from legitimate auction sites with seemingly better deals. The FTC offers a number of rules and tips for buyers and sellers on Internet auction sites on its website:

"It's Now or Never"/First Come, First Served: Beware of pressure for an immediate response or frantic claims of limited availability. Any legitimate company will give you time to make a wise purchasing decision. Look on the Web for a reliability seal from an online consumer protection group such as BBBOnLine and do some background checking before you buy. Always make sure you know the physical location of the company you're dealing with. A lot of scammers run websites out of their homes and do not have an actual office.

No Mail Please:
If a seller requests payment in cash by a private courier or by check or money order through an overnight delivery service, be suspicious. He or she could be trying to get around postal fraud laws.

Don't trust an offer for "free" products or services that later asks you to send money or pay an upfront fee. Make sure you read and understand all conditions of any "free trial" offers. They usually involve an automatic payment after the trial period is over.

Dazzling Presentation:
Scam business advertisements, particularly those sent by e-mail, are often brimming with excessive CAPITAL LETTERS, dollar $ign$ and !!!exclamation points!!!. It's also not uncommon for these ads to include misspellings or grammatical errors. Con artists hope that a glitzy Web site or flashy e-mail ad will blind consumers into falling for a scam.

"Get Rich Quick" Appeals:
Con artists know exactly how to scam consumers who want to make big money quick with little work or effort. The explosion of e-commerce and internet-related businesses has made it easy for cyberspace crooks to con eager buyers into believing that hundreds of dollars invested in an Internet business will instantly turn into thousands of dollars in profit over night. But the only person likely to make easy money in such schemes is the con artist.

While the Internet can be a safe and convenient place to do business, scammers are out there in "cyber world" targeting unsuspecting consumers. A Web site called was designed to educate consumers, and help prevent them from becoming victim of an Internet fraud. This Website was developed and is maintained by a joint federal law enforcement and industry task force. Funding for the site has been provided by the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Key partners include the National White Collar Crime Center,, Target and members of the Merchants Risk Council.
If you aren't sure if you have been or are about to become a victim of a scam, go to this link to take a risk assessment test to see if you are a potential victim -


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