This information is good not just here on the .org, 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.
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
and look for the complaint process.
Buyer Complaint Info Page
Next, Review the
and fill out a "Buyer Complaint Form" through
. 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:
. Here is the Fraud Protection Information:
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.
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
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:
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
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.
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
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
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 fruad, 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
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
) 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!!!
NOTE: 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
(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.
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
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
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
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