Sunday, October 16, 2011
As a local business owner, I have seen many kinds of scam/fraud/phishing attempts. From email to print classifieds and Internet ad sites, they come in many forms. While covert and alluring in their appeal - low price, great features - scammers will say anything to get you to fall into their trap. For those of us who use Internet advertising regularly, we spot the red flags more easily. Misspelled words, bad grammar and being out of the state/country are only a few.
Recently, there has been an increase on the local level. One of the scam attempts is to take exact phrases from ads and rerun them using the same item at a much lower price. The scammer claims to be the actual owner, but is out of the state/country and the reason you're seeing the other ad at the higher price is because they paid someone to advertise it for them, but they now want to cut them out of the loop. They use all advertising mediums to try and lure us in.
I have heard from other local businesses that also have been seeing these scams. There is not much recourse for us. Flag the ad, report it to the proper authorities and then - do nothing. I always hope that no one falls for their tactics.
Some online listing sites have warnings, but even the Union-Bulletin does not place warnings in its classifieds. In fact, I would estimate that of the 30 or so advertising sources that I use, I have only seen a warning on about 5 percent of them. I believe there should be a warning to let you know at least three things: Don't wire transfer any funds. Don't enter any type of agreement unless you are able to meet the owner or a representative in person. Don't give out your personal information over the phone or email.
Please be very careful in your rental housing searches, job searches, used car searches and any other type of ad that you may come across, because they target all kinds. The only way that these scammers are successful is if someone falls prey to their tactics. Only we as consumers can stop these scammers. If they are unsuccessful at luring us in, maybe, just maybe they will finally stop phishing.