From the comfort of an internet user’s own home they truly have the world at their finger tips. They have access to a Global Market place through the internet. Cyberspace offers unlimited options for quick and easy ways to shop, find investment opportunities, communicate, and much more. Unfortunately however, in today’s world fraudsters also find the internet to be a quick and easy way to fool and rob unsuspecting surfers with false advertising and false promises. The fraudsters target those who do not know how to determine the validity of online offers and sales. According to the National Fraud Information Center (NFC) there were 36,802 complaints of internet fraud in 2002, and the complaints increased to 37,183 in 2003 (Internet Scams). This growing problem affects internet users everywhere, who can lose hundreds of dollars to these cunning, ruthless scam artists.
According to the NFC undelivered or misrepresented goods or services from auction websites made up 89% of scam complaints in 2003 (Internet Scams). In his article entitled “Sleaze Bay,” David Freedman explains why auction websites are so appealing for fraudsters: “As is true of much of the Web, the characteristics that make auction sites so appealing—anonymity, speed, low overhead, access to millions of people, lack of outside regulation, an ability to interact from a great distance—are the very same characteristics that make rip-offs so easy” (1). According to Freedman, sites such as E-bay may be subject to shill bidding; a practice against E-bay rules that is often illegal. Shill bidding involves a seller, their friends, family, or other sellers bidding to entice other bidders to join and raise their profits. This is based on the idea that “…bidders often feel there is safety in numbers” (Freedman 1). If the seller is the final bidder, they can e-mail the runner up telling them that the winning bidder changed their mind. Fueling this practice is the fact that E-bay’s feedback system can easily be manipulated so that a fraudulent seller can secure a good reputation. A seller can refuse to allow buyers with negative feedback in future auctions and make “fake” sales to friends who will then give positive feedback.
The worst scam sellers on auction sites pull is failing to deliver goods sold to buyers and then disappearing. General merchandise scams in which there was false advertising, or customers never received their order made up 5% of internet scams in 2003, making it the second most common complaint according to the NFC (Internet Scams). Since it is relatively easy for a seller to secure a good reputation on auction sites through favors from other sellers or friends, an auction scam artist can offer expensive items with success. Also, they legally have up to 30 days to deliver the items, so they have sufficient time to collect their buyers’ money and change identities before the deadline. Freedman makes an appropriate point when he states, “Even after 30...