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How to Avoid Being a Victim of Cyber Fraud

Classified Ad Fraud:In this scam the person posts an ad for a nonexistent item.  If you agree to buy the item, the person will ask for money up front. He or she may ask for a deposit or processing fee. Another common trick is to ask to send you a cashier's check in exchange for cash that you wire to them. The person will claim that he or she cannot cash it for some reason. The seller may also say that a person who is in debt to him or her will be sending the cashier's check.

Avoiding this scam is simple. Never send money to someone you don't know personally. Never buy anything over the Internet site unseen, unless it is from a secure website that you know and trust. Especially, don't give someone money for an item that you want to purchase until the seller is ready to hand the item over to you.

If the item you want to buy is something inexpensive and you don't mind taking a chance, go ahead and buy it. Otherwise you are better off using online classified ads to find items that are near you. That way you can inspect the item before you hand over the money.

Online Auction Fraud
Online auction fraud is similar to the classified ad version. The person will post an auction for something they don't possess. If you win the auction, they will try to get you to wire them money, send a check or use other unsecure, unprotected payment methods. eBay.com lists several ways to avoid these scams:

  • Learn about the seller – Many eBay sellers also have separate online businesses. This is a good way to investigate the seller. Also check reviews, ratings and anything else you can to inform yourself about the seller.
  • Use PayPal – PayPal is secure and comes with some buyer protections.
  • Use a credit Card – If you don't use PayPal, use a credit card instead of a debit or check card. Credit cards have more protections against fraudulent purchases than checks or debit cards do. When you use a check card, you have no recourse once the money is taken out of your account.

The Grandparent Scam:When someone tries to pull this scam on you, it will often be in the form of a phone call or text message in the middle of the night. The scammer wants to catch you asleep and disoriented. He or she will claim to be your grandchild or other family member.  The caller will claim to be in some kind of trouble and need money.  Thanks to the common practice of putting all kinds of personal information and family history on social media sites, the scammer may have detailed information to make the call believable.

Don't be trapped by this scam. Just say no. Tell the person you will contact them later. When you are awake and alert, investigate the claim. Find out from other family members where the alleged person in trouble actually is. Chances are you will find out your grandchild was at home asleep when the call was made.

Online auctions and classified ads can be a great way to find quality used items. You just have to be careful when shopping. Be sure of what you are buying and use secure payment methods. Don't send money to anyone on the spur of the moment. A few basic precautions will keep you safe from cyber fraud.

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