Fraud Watch: Online shopping scams

HELENA – Online markets like Craigslist or eBay make shopping easier than ever, but the popular forums are also targets for scammers. The Craigslist and eBay scams are two sides of the same coin.

The Craigslist scam targets sellers. You could be advertising an item and a “buyer” sends you a check for the item that is far above the asking price. The buyer said to cash the check, keep a little extra for yourself and wires back the rest. The problem is, the check is bogus.

“The check might post to your bank account right away, but once it works its way through the system it will bounce and in the meantime, if you’ve wired the rest of the money or the funds through a Western Union or a MoneyGram, those funds are not recoverable,” said Ryan Sullivan with the Montana Department of Consumer Protection.

The eBay scam targets buyers. You find an item you want, but the “seller” asks you to pay with a wire transfer and not through PayPal. Once you make that payment through Western Union or MoneyGram, your money and the “seller” are gone.

“We urge folks to never use these types of payments when dealing with eBay. eBay only accepts PayPal. Any other type of payment that’s requested is a scam and not accepted by their organization,” Sullivan said.

Anyone with questions or concerns about selling or buying online should contact the Montana Department of Consumer Protection in Helena at (406) 444-4500.

Sullivan also advises that before you buy anything on eBay, check the seller’s reviews. If the seller’s history is hard to find or doesn’t exist, shop somewhere else.