Red Flag Warning expires at 6:00 PM on 4/24, issued at 3:25 AM Adams, MA | Ashley Falls, MA | Becket, MA | Berkshire, MA

Online Fraud Prevention

As an advertiser you need to be aware that some communication you receive in response to your classified advertisement may include fraudulent offers or attempts by individuals to access your personal information. We encourage all advertisers to learn more about safeguarding their privacy and personal information.

In order to safeguard your privacy and security, we want you to know that Seek It Local Classifieds DOES NOT perform any of the following services in connection with advertiser offers:

* Collect funds from/for the buyer or the seller
* Hold funds from/for the buyer or the seller
* Guarantee funds from/for the buyer or the seller
* Store merchandise from/for the buyer or the seller
* Ship merchandise from/for the buyer or the seller


If anyone that you contact regarding merchandise, vehicles, housing or employment indicates that Seek It Local Classifieds in any way insures or endorses the transaction - this is FALSE.

Be wary about inquiries from anyone outside our local area and Read all communication from potential buyers carefully.

Placing classified ads online with Seek It Local Classifieds is a fun and cost effective way for your message to reach a broad audience within the local area. Most advertisers have great experiences using our online classifieds. However, there are Internet scams and frauds that you should be aware of, and many of them involve 'offers' from people outside our local area. We urge you to fully consider and be cautious of offers or communications that are sent from locations outside of your area. Another common method to access your personal information through classified ads involves generic requests for more information about the items or services offered within the advertisement. If you receive any communication that does not ask specific questions about the content of the ad, or the potential buyer only refers to “the item” without asking common specific questions, you may wish to be cautious of this type of request. This doesn't mean that all such offers and communications are fraudulent - just be careful.

Common types of Internet fraud

Overpayment Scam. In this very common scenario, a scammer/buyer will contact a seller and negotiate a deal on merchandise. Many times, this buyer is located outside of the United States, and poses as a "broker" or a "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 for the overpayment. Unfortunately, the cashier's check or money order used to originally pay the buyer 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.

Too good to be true? Products that are priced way too low should raise a red flag. For instance, if a motorcycle is stated to be in "excellent" condition and yet is priced thousands below book value, you should proceed with caution. While not all bargains are scams, you may see clues when you contact the seller. Be wary of sellers from out of state / country; incorrect phone numbers or the inability to reach the seller via phone or physical address; and special situations such as the seller needing money quickly. To protect yourself, ask specific questions about authenticity, serial numbers, etc. Do your part to protect yourself - if you feel like a deal is too good to be true, it usually is.

Work-at-home scams. Be very skeptical of any "company" that advertises a work-at-home opportunity and requires advance payment 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; i.e., who will pay you, will you be paid on commission, etc.

Wire fraud. In this scenario, the scammer/buyer 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. Always use caution when providing any form of personal information.

Customs scams. There are recent reports from the IFCC involving Eastern European countries and high incidences of fraud. Many of the fraudulent buyers of items are located in these countries and often ask that the seller ship in a manner that will avoid customs or taxes. Sellers should be wary of this type of behavior.

Who should I notify about fraud?
FTC toll free hotline: 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357)
FTC online complaint form (www.ftc.gov)


Other helpful Resources about protecting yourself online

FTC, Internet Fraud - http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/menu-internet.htm
FTC, Identity Theft - http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/
Better Business Bureau - http://bbb.org/


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Tips to Protecting yourself and family from Internet fraud
Avoiding Internet Auction Fraud
  • Understand as much as possible about how the auction works, what your obligations are as a buyer, and what the seller's obligations are before you bid.
  • Find out what actions the web site/company takes if a problem occurs and consider insuring the transaction and shipment.
  • Learn as much as possible about the seller, especially if the only information you have is an e-mail address. If it is a business, check the Better Business Bureau where the seller/business is located.
  • Examine the feedback on the seller.
  • Determine what method of payment the seller is asking from the buyer and where he/she is asking to send payment.
  • If a problem occurs with the auction transaction, it could be much more difficult if the seller is located outside the US because of the difference in laws.
  • Ask the seller about when delivery can be expected and if there is a problem with the merchandise is it covered by a warranty or can you exchange it.
  • Find out if shipping and delivery are included in the auction price or are additional costs so there are no unexpected costs.
  • There should be no reason to give out your social security number or drivers license number to the seller.

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Avoiding Non-Delivery of Merchandise
  • Make sure you are purchasing merchandise from a reputable source.
  • Do your homework on the individual or company to ensure that they are legitimate.
  • Try to obtain a physical address rather than merely a post office box and a phone number, call the seller to see if the number is correct and working.
  • Send them e-mail to see if they have an active e-mail address and be wary of sellers who use free e-mail services where a credit card wasn’t required to open the account.
  • Consider not purchasing from sellers who won't provide you with this type of information.
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau from the seller’s area.
  • Check out other web sites regarding this person/company.
  • Don’t judge a person/company by their web site.
  • Be cautious when responding to special offers (especially through unsolicited e-mail).
  • Be cautious when dealing with individuals/companies from outside your own country.
  • Inquire about returns and warranties.
  • The safest way to purchase items via the Internet is by credit card because you can often dispute the charges if something is wrong.
  • Make sure the transaction is secure when you electronically send your credit card numbers.
  • Consider utilizing an escrow or alternate payment service.

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Avoiding Credit Card Fraud
  • Don't give out your credit card number(s) online unless the site is a secure and reputable site. Sometimes a tiny icon of a padlock appears to symbolize a higher level of security to transmit data. This icon is not a guarantee of a secure site, but might provide you some assurance.
  • Don't trust a site just because it claims to be secure.
  • Before using the site, check out the security/encryption software it uses.
  • Make sure you are purchasing merchandise from a reputable source.
  • Do your homework on the individual or company to ensure that they are legitimate.
  • Try to obtain a physical address rather than merely a post office box and a phone number, call the seller to see if the number is correct and working.
  • Send them e-mail to see if they have an active e-mail address and be wary of sellers who use free e-mail services where a credit card wasn’t required to open the account.
  • Consider not purchasing from sellers who won't provide you with this type of information.
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau from the seller’s area.
  • Check out other web sites regarding this person/company.
  • Don’t judge a person/company by their web site.
  • Be cautious when responding to special offers (especially through unsolicited e-mail).
  • Be cautious when dealing with individuals/companies from outside your own country.
  • The safest way to purchase items via the Internet is by credit card because you can often dispute the charges if something is wrong.
  • Make sure the transaction is secure when you electronically send your credit card numbers.
  • You should also keep a list of all your credit cards and account information along with the card issuer’s contact information. If anything looks suspicious or you lose your credit card(s) you should contact the card issuer immediately.

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Avoiding Investment Fraud

  • Don't invest in anything based on appearances. Just because an individual or company has a flashy web site doesn't mean it is legitimate. Web sites can be created in just a few days. After a short period of taking money, a site can vanish without a trace.
  • Don’t invest in anything you are not absolutely sure about. Do your homework on the investment to ensure that it is legitimate.
  • Do your homework on the individual or company to ensure that they are legitimate.
  • Check out other web sites regarding this person/company.
  • Don’t judge a person/company by their web site.
  • Be cautious when responding to special investment offers (especially through unsolicited e-mail).
  • Be cautious when dealing with individuals/companies from outside your own country.
  • Inquire about all the terms and conditions.
  • If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

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Avoiding Business Fraud
  • Purchase merchandise from reputable dealers or establishments.
  • Try to obtain a physical address rather than merely a post office box and a phone number, call the seller to see if the number is correct and working.
  • Send them e-mail to see if they have an active e-mail address and be wary of those that utilize free e-mail services where a credit card wasn't required to open the account.
  • Consider not purchasing from sellers who won't provide you with this type of information.
  • Purchase merchandise directly from the individual/company that holds the trademark, copyright, or patent.
  • Beware when responding to e-mail that may not have been sent by a reputable company.

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Avoiding the Nigerian Letter Scam

  • Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as Nigerian or foreign government officials asking for your help in placing large sums of money in overseas bank accounts.
  • Do not believe the promise of large sums of money for your cooperation.
  • Guard your account information carefully.

    The Nigerian Letter Scam is described on the Common Fraud Schemes webpage.

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