Online Auction Scam Uncovered, Consumer Refunded Money

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August 23, 2007

LITTLE ROCK - While online auction scams are not new, scammers are becoming more sophisticated and going to greater lengths to defraud consumers. Today, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel wants to draw attention to a particularly shocking scam in order to encourage Arkansans to exercise caution when shopping on Internet auction sites.

Recently, Alice Medlock of Van Buren was helping her son buy two jet skis for $9500 on eBay. Alice contacted the seller, who listed her name as "Debra Rose." Through a series of email exchanges, Ms. Rose alerted Alice that she was at a hospital in St. Louis where her husband was awaiting a heart transplant, a procedure she allegedly hoped to help pay for using the money from the sale of the jet skis. She told Alice that she would send her the titles, pay for the shipping, provide a tracking number, and accept payment for the watercrafts through eBay.

Shortly thereafter, Alice received an email invoice that appeared to be from eBay. The invoice instructed her to transfer $9500 from her bank to an ING Direct account in Minnesota, and after the wire was complete, the seller sent her pictures of the certificate of titles in the name of Debra Rose, a Web address for the shipper and a tracking number. When Alice went to the shipper's Internet site and entered the tracking number, the following information appeared on her computer screen:

Tracking number: 1512450813 ( Vehicle in transit)
Booked on date: 8-8-2007
Booked by: Debra Rose - Mesa/AZ
Charges/Insurance: Shipping charges w/ Full insurance - PAID

Carrier Type: Enclosed Trailer
Shipping to: Van Buren - AR
Today Location: Dallas - TX
Vehicle Type: Watercraft
Vehicle Make: 2xYamaha w/ Trailer
Vehicle Model: FX Cruiser
Year: 2006

Alice became suspicious of the deal after noticing some inconsistencies in the information provided by the seller. For instance, the pictures of the jet skis showed registration decals in Indiana but the certificate of titles were in Arizona, and the consumer wired money to a bank in Minnesota. She also researched Debra Rose, who appeared to be a legitimate person living in Mesa, Arizona; however, after questioning "Debra Rose" and receiving only excuses in reply, Alice soon found out that the sale was a scam and contacted the Attorney General's Office.

Investigators in the Public Protection Department began an investigation and discovered that the Arizona certificates of title were counterfeit. They also learned that Debra Rose is the name of an actual woman living in Mesa, Arizona, but she was not involved in the scam. The con artist stole her name and address. Furthermore, the bank in Minnesota discovered that the account Alice wired her money to was fraudulent and set up using the stolen identity of a woman in Connecticut. The Attorney General's Office contacted the bank that had received the $9500 wire transfer and stopped it from forwarding the funds to the scammer's account. Alice has now been refunded her $9500.

"I can tell you that I am very disappointed in eBay, but I am very impressed with the manner in which the Attorney General assisted me in getting my $9500 returned," said Medlock. "EBay never responded to my five emails concerning this fraudulent transaction until the day after my money was returned, and then it was to tell me they were not liable. I truly appreciate how the Attorney General's Office and investigator, Jason Stewart, handled this."

"We were so happy we could help this consumer before it was too late," said Attorney General Dustin McDaniel. "Scams like this one are all too common and all too convincing. Worse yet, there are usually many victims involved because the criminals commit one crime, like identity theft, in order to perpetrate another one, like the auction scam."

Before purchasing anything online, consumers should thoroughly research the seller and product information, and if something appears suspicious, they should immediately contact the Attorney General's Office Public Protection Department at (501) 682-2341 or toll-free statewide at (800) 482-8982. For more information on protecting yourself while online shopping, visit www.ArkansasAG.gov