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Avoiding Online Scams

By: mike springer Email
By: mike springer Email

Millions of people use sites like Craigslist every day to cash in on online deals. But not all of those deals are what they seem. Some can leave you with empty pockets.

Krystal Hill moved out of her Tallahassee apartment several months ago and needed to get rid of some furniture. So Hill searched sites like Craigslist looking for deals. In December, Hill posted an ad for an armoire. Within minutes, she was contacted by a buyer. One that Hill says was acting odd.

"He was just real pushy and just off the bat asking for my information,"
said Hill.

Even with reservations Hill continued with the deal. The man sent her a check for more than she had asked. And Hill says he then told her to send back the difference.

"He wanted me to deposit the money into my bank account and take out the money for the item, plus an additional $70 for the stress that he has caused and wire the rest of it to his movers," says Hill.

Hill never cashed the check. But reported the scam to police. They are still investigating. She is just one of the thousands who scammers target everyday.

A 2010 Federal Bureau of Investigations report shows Floridians lost more than $37 million dollars in internet crimes. Most of those loses fell between $100 and $1000 dollars. With the majority of victims being between 41 and 49. Who on average lost around $800 dollars.

"If it's probably too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true," says Officer Dave Northway Tallahassee Police Department.

TPD has its own fraud unit which investigates cyber crimes. Northway says the unit sees about 10 scams a month involving Craigslist. The most common of those involve electronics.

"They are advertising an iPad for $50 to $100 dollars. Somewhere in that range. Some ridiculously low price, because an iPad is around $600 dollars and then the person goes to purchase it and the iPad is either stolen or it's not a working iPad, it's a knock off iPad, something like that. And they've entered into a transaction they can't possibly get what they are looking for," says Northway.

Northway says online scams are on the rise. But there are steps consumers can take to protect themselves:
-Deal Locally
-Meet in public places
-And never give out personal information

As for Hill, she still uses craigslist. But says the experience taught her an important lesson, that not every link that glistens is gold.


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