FTC, States Target Internet Auction Fraud

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The Federal Trade Commission and 29 states have launched a crackdown targeting Internet auction scams that bilked thousands of consumers out of their money and merchandise, the FTC announced yesterday.

The crackdown, "Operation Bidder Beware," has resulted in 57 criminal and civil law enforcement actions and a related consumer education campaign. Auction fraud is the single largest category of Internet related complaints, the FTC said.

"Law enforcement will do what it can, and responsible auction sites are trying to police their own market," said Washington state Attorney General Christine Gregoire. "But the single most powerful tool to protect consumers is education."

Many of the cases involve scams where consumers allegedly "won" the bid for merchandise through an Internet auction Web site, sent in their money, but never received the merchandise. In one case, the FTC said, the defendants combined auction fraud with serial identity theft to conceal their identities and divert the blame to the identity theft victim.

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