CHARLESTON, WV (NEWS RELEASE) — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey urged consumers to exercise caution when making online classified purchases.
Just last week, the Attorney General’s Office received calls from two consumers concerned about online sellers who requested payment via Ebay gift cards. One caller’s inquiry involved a $6,000 used vehicle, while the other pertained to a house rental.
Any such request should immediately raise suspicion and cause the consumer to question if the product being offered actually exists. Consumers should also know that verifying its existence does not confirm that it is actually for sale.
“Online classifieds feature legitimate offers at great prices, however consumers must watch for signs of deception,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “In most instances, just a couple extra questions or a bit more research can save you a lot of money.”
The used vehicle and house rental calls are similar to approximately a dozen others received during the past month. Each questioned deal was offered via online classified websites, such as Craigslist, Ebay, Letgo and Facebook Marketplace among others.
The Attorney General’s best advice is to finalize any transaction in person. This allows the consumer to see the item, verify it operates and take immediate ownership. Craigslist goes so far as to suggest those who engage in face-to-face transactions avoid 99 percent of scams attempts.
Other tips to consider include the following:
- Avoid any seller who requests payment via gift card or wire transfer.
- Do not depend upon a photo to confirm an item exists.
- Know the seller. Read reviews, ask for references or seek recommendations from a trusted individual.
- Pay with a credit card or check. Both options allow the buyer to cancel payment.
- Avoid unrealistic discounts. Typically something too good to be true is just that.
Anyone with questions or fears they may be the victim of such a scam should contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239 or visit the office online at www.wvago.gov.