***NICOclub.com is not responsible for the outcome of any transaction that may have been facilitated in the NICOclub.com Classifieds or any other forum. We are not liable for fraud committed by lowlife seller(s), so it is imperative that buyers do their homework before sending any money.***
The following is a brief tutorial on how to protect yourself from fraudulent sellers. It is not comprehensive, but it is a good start. Please use caution when dealing with people that you do not know on the internet.
For Buyers: Give seller 2 days to provide tracking number, and pay only to verified seller. Use PayPal! Ask for pictures of the item to be taken with a custom sign.
For Sellers: Make sure you are PREPARED to sell and ship immediately. NICOclub DOES NOT tolerate scammers, and the Management cooperates with all inquiries for information from both buyers and authorities. We are well-equipped to find fraudulent sellers and WILL POST your personal information if the evidence suggests you have committed fraud.
Sellers would also be wise to photograph the item for sale with a handwritten sign - The sign should include the date, your NICO user ID, and a description of the item for sale.
Reminder: Any transactions stemming from threads in the B/S/T forum are strictly between the buyer and seller. NICO provides the forum as a venue and as a service to its members, but NICO is not responsible for the outcome of any transactions, as stated in the user agreement that required approval before membership was granted.
The following article is provided as a reference to buyers who think they've been scammed, or who would just like to provide a little more stimulus to the seller to ship the items that have been paid for. NICO believes the information is very valuable, but the accuracy is not guaranteed by NICO nor the author. In addition, no responsibility is assumed by NICO nor the author for the use of any information contained herein.
NICO expresses its warmest thanks to the author, Patrick Henry, who orignally posted this elsewhere, and who has revised and added to the work as more information became available. He may be reached via email at [email protected]
should you have questions or suggestions.
This information is good not just here, but also on eBay and other auction sites, other forums and, bulletin boards.
Okay, here is what I would do:
First, as a general rule for dealings on the Internet, keep copies of EVERYTHING- emails, PayPal receipts, money order stubs, everything! Second, be aware that steps 1 and 2 can involve a lot of back and forth between them, depending on the method of payment.
STEP 1.Inform the Financial Institutions and websites involved.
If you paid by money order place a complaint AND a trace on the money order with the company that sold it (western union, USPS, etc.). Make sure it was cashed. Find out WHERE it was cashed. The same goes for a check, whether issued by a bank or a personal check.
If you paid by PayPal, go to the PayPal website at http://www.paypal.com
and look for the complaint process. PayPal Buyer Complaint Info Page.Next, Review the Buyer Complaint Process and fill out a "Buyer Complaint Form" through the Security Center. If you are logged in on the PayPal site, it may take you to a different site than these links. You must be logged in to fill out the form.
If it was on eBay or another auction site, look for the "Safe Harbor" clause or provisions in the user agreement. Try the "help" icons and search for "fraud" or "safe harbor" in the FAQs or Help sections.Here is the General Help Page for eBay: General Help- eBay. Here is the Fraud Protection Information: Fraud Protection Information- eBay.
Most other auction sites have similar policies. I use eBay as an example because I, like many of you, use it frequently.
Most forums are like this one: Buyer Beware. While you may get moderator assistance to get IP information, login frequency, and other contact info, in most cases nothing can be done.
One other thing to look into is the fact that eBay and PayPal are now one company. While before they would play one off of the other as to whose responsibility it was, they can no longer do that safely, as statements of one could be used against the other. This should, at least in theory, cut down on passing of the buck between the two, a common thing in the past.
Your bank or credit card can also be a powerful ally. While not necessarily bound to help you if you used PayPal, most of the time the fraud protection issued by your credit card company can help get to the root of a problem. Remember, you credit card can even file a complaint with PayPal if PayPal won't do anything to help you, because, as far as the credit card is concerned, PayPal took your money. THey don't care what PayPal did with it, they just know that it was PayPal that billed you. Your bank can do the same. Your bank will be more likely to give you personal service, but your credit card company has more clout. Use both to your advantage.
If you paid by check, or money order issued by the bank, or by bank card (ATM/Debit Card) directly, the bank should get involved. My PayPal account ACCEPTS Credit/Debit cards. If someone were to pay me that way directly (not through "PayPal" funds), their bank or credit card company could come after me directly (if I tried to shank them). I have helped people get money back through PayPal this way.
STEP 2.Inform the Authorities.
If you sent payment in any form, whether check, Money Order (Postal or other), cashier’s check, or cash (NEVER SEND CASH!!!) through the mail, file a complaint at your local post office. Here is a link to the mail fraud reporting form:Mail Fraud Complaint Form.
It is a federal crime (mail fraud), so they should know the drill. Get the manager of your local post office to give you the name of the post office that is local to the recipient (where HIS/HER mail gets routed through prior to delivery). Here is a link to the USPS Postal Inspectors' website: USPS Fraud Protection Website.
Here is a link to the USPS web site. It has a "finder" feature to locate post offices anywhere, including contact information:USPS website.
Call the endpoint post office and file a claim. Call the local police or sheriffs office and file a criminal complaint using the information from the postal complaint form. Local police numbers can be found through most Internet directories. I have found that http://www.anywho.com
works the best for me. Most of the time, the post office can even give you that information. If not, your local police can do so.
STEP 3.Involve the BIG DOGS.
Your next step is to go to the Internet Fraud Complaint Center website. The IFCC is located in my old hometown of Morgantown, WV (Go Mountaineers!!!).IFCC is a joint venture between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C) that is designed to cross the jurisdictional restrictions that internet commerce presents. They have broad jurisdiction AND enlist the assistance of local law enforcement to track down frauds and scams that are performed using the Internet as a media.Here is a link to the website:Internet Fraud Complaint Center Website.
On the left hand side is the fraud complaint process and the forms. They require copies of past correspondence and documentation, and will use this information to CRIMINALLY prosecute violators. This does not help you directly, as your claim will be civil (not criminal), but this makes it easier for you to recover your money, because restitution is often a component of sentencing in fraud cases.
These guys don't fool around. They jail people. They seize things, close accounts, freeze assets. They get the job done.
An additional resource for information related to the use of more formal complaint procedures is the National Fraud Information Center. I have posted some of their tips at the very bottom of this post. Check them out for a better idea of what to look for on the 'net.Here is their website: National Fraud Information Center. On the site there are several useful tools to combat fraud, including their online incident reporting form, found here: National Fraud Information Center Online Incident Report Form and a link to more basic information related to internet fraud, found here: NFIC Internet Fraud Information.
EDIT: ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS-If you attend a college or university, most have an office of legal services or something similar. I used to work for the one at West Virginia University when I was in grad school. Basically, we did everything that a normal law office does, including dealing with these matters. I was the one who dealt with Internet fraud, which is why I know what I know. I would find people and figure out how to serve them (in the legal sense), follow up with local law enforcement, and deal with banks, eBay, PayPal, whoever, all on the behalf of the students. We did free representation, and most universities offer this service to students. In know that a lot of schools do this, because when the scammer or @$$hole that screwed one of my clients over was a student somewhere else, I would usually just call the university and talk to their legal services department. I was surprised to see that most universities have either an office like where I worked OR had lawyers that volunteered to help on certain days of the week. This is an option for you guys to check out if you are in college.
Try the directory for entries of Legal Services, Legal Aid, Student Legal Aid, Student Legal Services, Student Counsel (not Council), or even try calling the law school (if your school has one). WVU had a law school, but my office was not linked to it (except that law students usually work there). If nothing else, try the offices of student life or student affairs. I hope that this helps.
I will add to this as I come up with new stuff. Email me ([email protected]
) or PM me if you need more help or info. I will be happy to assist you to the best of my ability, but no promises. Let me know about dead links and incorrect information, especially if you are a police officer or lawyer and I have screwed something up.
Here is a link to the tips from the National Fraud Information Center:GREAT TIPS FOR INTERNET TRANSACTIONS--- READ THESE!!!.
UPDATE: I have posted this on several other forums (all of them have stickied it), so IF YOU ARE ON ANY OTHER FORUM AND WANT THIS POSTED, PLEASE CONTACT ME FOR THE HTML VERSION OF THE POST. THIS WILL ENSURE THAT THE LINKS ARE PRESERVED!!! I will GLADLY give anyone the right to post this on ANY forum.
Here is the text from the NFIC website regarding general tips for internet transactions:(Note- the following is not my own work, but is instead taken from the website of the National Fraud Information Center, and is reproduced here for reference ONLY!)
Know who you’re dealing with. If the seller or charity is unfamiliar, check with your state or local consumer protection agency and the Better Business Bureau. Some Web sites have feedback forums, which can provide useful information about other people’s experiences with particular sellers. Get the physical address and phone number in case there is a problem later.
Look for information about how complaints are handled. It can be difficult to resolve complaints, especially if the seller or charity is located in another country. Look on the Web site for information about programs the company or organization participates in that require it to meet standards for reliability and help to handle disputes.
Be aware that no complaints is no guarantee. Fraudulent operators open and close quickly, so the fact that no one has made a complaint yet doesn’t meant that the seller or charity is legitimate. You still need to look for other danger signs of fraud.
Don’t believe promises of easy money. If someone claims that you can earn money with little or no work, get a loan or credit card even if you have bad credit, or make money on an investment with little or no risk, it’s probably a scam.
Understand the offer. A legitimate seller will give you all the details about the products or services, the total price, the delivery time, the refund and cancellation policies, and the terms of any warranty. For more information about shopping safely online, go to http://www.nclnet.org/shoppingonline
Resist pressure. Legitimate companies and charities will be happy to give you time to make a decision. It’s probably a scam if they demand that you act immediately or won’t take “No” for an answer.
Think twice before entering contests operated by unfamiliar companies. Fraudulent marketers sometimes use contest entry forms to identify potential victims.
Be cautious about unsolicited emails. They are often fraudulent. If you are familiar with the company or charity that sent you the email and you don’t want to receive further messages, send a reply asking to be removed from the email list. However, responding to unknown senders may simply verify that yours is a working email address and result in even more unwanted messages from strangers. The best approach may simply be to delete the email.
Beware of imposters. Someone might send you an email pretending to be connected with a business or charity, or create a Web site that looks just like that of a well-known company or charitable organization. If you’re not sure that you’re dealing with the real thing, find another way to contact the legitimate business or charity and ask.
Guard your personal information. Don’t provide your credit card or bank account number unless you are actually paying for something. Your social security number should not be necessary unless you are applying for credit. Be especially suspicious if someone claiming to be from a company with whom you have an account asks for information that the business already has.
Beware of “dangerous downloads.” In downloading programs to see pictures, hear music, play games, etc., you could download a virus that wipes out your computer files or connects your modem to a foreign telephone number, resulting in expensive phone charges. Only download programs from Web sites you know and trust. Read all user agreements carefully.
Pay the safest way. Credit cards are the safest way to pay for online purchases because you can dispute the charges if you never get the goods or services or the offer was misrepresented. Federal law limits your liability to $50 if someone makes unauthorized charges to your account, and most credit card issuers will remove them completely if you report the problem promptly. There are new technologies, such as “substitute” credit card numbers and password programs, that can offer extra measures of protection from someone else using your credit card. For more information about paying safely online, go to http://www.nclnet.org/shoppingonline
______________BREAK __________________I've compiled a pretty good rough outline. It is most effective when used prior to initial contact in order to offer you the most protection. After that, the rest is pretty cut and dry. The biggest hurdle will be production of acceptable evidence for a warrant to be issued. Be sure togive me feedback on the contents and results.
Here it is:
Covering your own rear in an internet/ long distance transaction is vital. When answering an ad, get all information that you can about the seller. Be sure to read the instructions completely before acting in any way. The info that you need is as follows:
1. HOME phone number. It is easy to reverse trace, where a cell number is not. If you get a cell number, casually bring up the conversation of cell service. Is theirs good, what package and carrier? record and save the information both of home and cell.
2. Get the seller's street address and mailing address if different. (ask if it is the same). Record and save the information.
3. It is helpful to get the seller's work address and phone number through casual conversation. Record the information and save.
4. Find out the seller's internet provider. Hotmail accounts do not count. The conversation could go like this: "Can you e-mail me a picture of the part? Then again, my server is so crappy lately it is a wonder that I get any e-mail at all. Who do you have for service? is it as slow as _____? "Record and save the information.
5. When sending payment, use a money order with enough room to put your name and address as well as the name and address of the seller. It is vital that you get a money order that allows you to put a description of what the money order is for. I use First Union Bank money orders because they have provisions for the above information. Keep a photocopy and receipt of the Money Order.
6. Send payment via usps and use delivery confirmation. This allows tracking the shipment. This way the perp cannot claim the funds were not received and provides proof of USPS involvement. Keep the receipt.
7. Keep a record of all phone calls (phone bills would be great), keep all e-mails and print them out in paper form as well as a backup disk.
8. Keep a record of the for sale ad location, and make a printed copy/disk backup.
It is vital that you follow the above steps. The information above will give you an iron tight case and all of the information will be put to good use if the need arises. The following information centers around what to do in case of being ripped off. Assuming that phone calls and e-mails are getting you nowhere, you must now be a private investigator for a day or two.....
1. Using the perp's address, do an internet search or whatever other means available, find out what law enforcement agency has jurisdiction over the perp's mailing/street address. record and save the information.
2. Find out what local law enforcement agency has jurisdiction over the location in which your first contact with the seller's ad took place from. Example: If you answered the ad from your computer at home, then the jurisdiction must cover your home address. Record and save the information.
3. Find out the perp's Internet Service Provider's page and contactinformation, record and save.
4. Find out the perp's cell/home phone provider, contact information. Recordthe information and save.
5. Find the address and contact information of the perp's local post office.Record the information and save.
6. Call the seller's work location at a time that the perp cannot answer the work phone and find out who runs/owns the business. Record the information and save.
If all the above steps have been completed, Congrats!You are ready to wage war.......When doing so, it will be most effective if the perp doesn't know that the war has started, It is essential that the complaints be filed all in the same day with reference to all other complaints. Example: The post office complaint should contain a reference to the FBI complaint, ISP complaint, etc......
1. Start a negative thread explaining the situation.
2. Draft a letter of complaint with plenty of copies that outlines the transaction, as well as all copies of information that you gathered. This can be a basic form type letter and may look asfollows:
Dear ________ (perp or agency),
I am the victim of an internet scam involving the sale of ___________. Here is a synopsis of what has occurred. (time to give the facts here)
I also have the following information that will be relevant: (give as much of the perp's information that you have found including websites of negative info, ISP info, post office info, police dept. etc.
So in a recap, I contracted to buy parts via internet from: _________ (include address)
I sent a money order in the amount of _____through the US postal service to the above person.
The perp will not answer e-mail, phone, etc.... and I need help. Can you provide assistance?
Than you for your help,(signed________)
3. Gather all related information including web pages and the negative thread, and file a report with:a. the local agency that had jurisdiction over your first contact. IT IS IMPORTANT that all information in copy form be submitted to your local agency first. Be sure to include the perp's ISP provider, phone number, and the perp's local law enforcement agency that would pick him up. The local agency will take the report and forward to the perp's local agency for their dispatch of an officer.
b. The FBI internet fraud site http://www.ifccfbi.gov
c. The perp's ISP provider stating that the perp is using their service to commit internet fraud. Send via regular mail and e-mail.
d. The perp's phone service/ cell provider for using their service to commit internet fraud. Send via regular mail AND e-mail.
e. The US postal service for using the mail to commit mail/ internet fraud. Do two reports, one to your local office and one to the perp's office. Do both regular mail and internet e-mail.http://www.usps.com
f. File a report with http://www.trollhunters.com
g. File a report withhttp://www.fraud.org/info/contactnfic.htm
h. Send a complaint form copy to the work location of the perp that is addressed to the owner/manager. Make sure to include the phrase:"While you do not have any control over this individual when he is not at work, you should make sure that internet fraud is not being committed by the perp using company equipment or company internet access."
i. Notify the perp and provide a list of all reports filed, that you have been forced to take action and that it is now completely out of your hands. The only way that proceedings can be dissolved is by the perp making restitution. Make it known that you gave him every chance, and now the authorities will take over. (at this point negotiating is pointless, the perp knows what to do.) End of discussion. Sometimes the most stubborn crook will do nothing until they get the knock at the door from the police. If that is what it takes, so be it.
What to do when dealing with a minor:
Everything above works fine, but additional work in the area of intelligence gathering is needed. Usually if all the above information is obtained, internet searches can usually point the wayto the parents. The parents are to be notified in the same manner as all the other agencies,including copies of complaints to other agencies. It is important that you do not threaten a minor via e-mail or phone conversation. Leverage can be used, but to physically threaten with violence will affect your position when pressing charges.