Internet Auction Scams Top Complaints, Study Says

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Two-thirds of all scams perpetrated over the Internet centered on auctions, according to a study released this week by the Washington-based National White Collar Crime Center.

In a typical complaint reported to an FBI Web site, the consumer claimed that he paid for merchandise but never received what he ordered, said Donald J. Rebovich, research director at the crime center.

The study detailed complaints lodged with the Internet Fraud Complaint Center Web site from May 8 to Nov. 8 last year, its first six months of operation. Over that period, the site logged more than 37.5 million visits, about 5 percent of them ending in complaints being filed.

Data show that of the 20,014 complaints filed, 6,086 were referred for further action, and 5,237 of those involved fraud allegedly carried out using the Web. The typical fraud crime netted a loss of $233, according to the study.

Consumers can protect themselves from such scams by requiring the seller's identity in advance and paying with a credit card, which usually limits the buyer's loss, Rabovich said.

Another trend uncovered in the study was how some buyers perpetrate scams of their own by manipulating the bidding on some items, Rebovich said.

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