Protect yourself from being defrauded as a buyer or seller by taking a few moments to get familiar with common warning signs of Internet fraud.
- Avoid international or out-of-state buyers or sellers.
- Avoid dealing with anyone claiming they are acting on behalf of another person, or who refuses to meet in person for the transaction.
- Don't accept or pay using wire transfers.
- Never accept overpayment for an item.
- Don't accept cashier's checks. If you accept any type of check payment, wait for it to clear before supplying items.
- If the item is greatly under-priced, proceed with caution.
- Use established secure payment methods as these provide some protection in the event you are defrauded.
- E-mail is not a secure method of providing payment information.
Help NWsource protect consumers:
If you notice any of these red flags, or feel you have been defrauded by an advertiser on NWsource, please notify us. To report an issue, locate the ad in question on NWsource.com, click on "Report ad to moderator" in the left column, and fill out the short report. Our moderator will investigate and remove or re-classify the ad.
- IFCC - Reporting fraud to the government
- FBI - Internet fraud
- FTC - Internet consumers info
- FTC - Identity theft info
- Better Business Bureau
Examples of common scams:
The following is not intended to cover all existing scams. For more information, or to report Internet fraud, visit the United States Government's Internet Fraud Complaint Center.
Pet fraud. A common pet scam for a seller is to post an ad for a pet that is priced far less than industry standard for the pet/breed. When a buyer contacts the seller s/he will apologize and say the pet was just sold, but a third party who bought one of the litter mates recently moved overseas and has to get rid of the pet for the sake of its health. The third party will then request money via Western Union in order to ship the pet to buyer. If the buyer sends the money, the third party will come up with another reason to send more money, such as customs fees, vet bills, or additional transport costs. This will continue until the buyer stops sending money. Be wary of overseas sellers or third-party contacts. Most legitimate sellers are willing to complete a sale in person.
When buying pets, ask if the breeder is a member of an affiliated association and contact the association to verify membership and check for complaints. Request references.
Here are some of the more popular clubs/associations:
- American Kennel Club
- Continental Kennel Club
- Cat Fanciers Association
- The Society of Parrot Breeders and Exhibitors
If you suspect animal abuse contact your local humane society or law enforcement agency.
Identity theft. Always exercise extreme caution when asked to provide any personal information to unknown sources over the phone, fax or Internet.
- Do not disclose Social Security numbers
- Never give out personal financial information
- Be cautious of doing business with overseas companies or employers. A legitimate overseas company should have the resources to conduct business in the United States without using a privately held bank account.
Phishing. This is a technique where criminals create fake, but very real looking e-mails and websites to gain personal information for the purpose of identity theft. These e-mails appear to come from legitimate businesses and are designed to fool recipients into divulging personal data. Often these e-mails ask you to "update your account information" or "check your status" and provide links that appear connected to the company, but route you to a different website. Legitimate businesses will never ask you to divulge your personal information via e-mail. If you have any questions as to your account status with a particular business, contact the business directly.
Overpayment scams. In this common scenario, a scammer will contact a seller and negotiate a deal on merchandise. Many times, the buyer is located outside of the United States, and poses as a "broker" or "third party" on behalf of another interested party. The buyer will send a cashier's check (or money order) for more than the asking price of the merchandise. The buyer will instruct the seller to send the difference. The cashier's check or money is counterfeit and will be returned to the seller with insufficient funds. The seller is then cheated out of his or her own cash, plus any merchandise that was sent.
Employment / work-at-home scams. Be very skeptical of any "company" that advertises a work-at-home opportunity and requires advance payments or deposits on items or services. Be skeptical of earnings claims that sound too good to be true. Ask detailed questions about what exactly you will have to do to earn money with the program. Who will pay you? Will you be paid on commission? Do not disclose personal or financial information. A Social Security number is not necessary for an employer to do a background check or credit check. Check the company's contact information and website. Verify that a company is legitimate before continuing to do business or applying for a job. More information: Better Business Bureau
Wire fraud. In this scenario, the scammer will request permission to wire-transfer money directly into the seller's bank account. By providing confidential bank account information to the buyer, your account may be compromised. Don't accept wire transfers.
Fraud Alert. In the past we have received reports of scammers posing as employees of The Seattle Times to acquire advertiser credit card numbers. It is unlikely anyone from The Seattle Times would call and ask for credit card information from you after you have placed an ad. If you receive such a call, please hang up and call us directly at 206/464-8491 or e-mail us at support at nwsource dot com to ask if there are any problems with your ad. Always use caution when divulging credit card information.