Do not place this bid yet! Make sure it’s not an auction scam
Auctions can be a great way to buy an expensive item at a deep discount. However, scammers know that promising a “good deal” is a great way to lure unsuspecting victims. Even if an auction looks legitimate, potential bidders should beware. BBB Scam Tracker received multiple reports of fake phishing auctions for consumers’ personal information and money.
How the scam works
You see an ad for a website that auctions off cars, RVs, boats, and other big-ticket items. You visit the website and everything looks legit. The site might even claim to be affiliated with the government. You register to bid, which may include sending the auctioneer a copy of your driver’s license, along with other sensitive personal information.
After registering, you place a bid on an item. To your surprise, you win the item for a prize that seems almost too good to be true. The auctioneer gives you instructions on how to transfer the money. Once you’ve paid, the auctioneer will likely disappear and become uncontactable. The item you won is never delivered. Unfortunately, you have just given money and personal information to a scammer!
A consumer reported the following experience to BBB Scam Tracker: “I ended up bidding on a 2019 Nissan Titan pickup truck with 17,000 miles. To my surprise, I received a notice that I had won The next day they sent an invoice so I could transfer the funds to the bank What they sent looked like a person in Georgia not a business in Oklahoma so I called… I kept on calling asking questions, and he finally said they were going to cancel the sale and I said okay.
How to avoid auction scams
- Research auctions and auctioneers before participating. If an auction claims to be a “government” auction, contact the branch of government holding the event to make sure it is legitimate. If you are considering a private auction or an auction organized by a private company, find out about the auctioneer in advance. Look closely at reviews from previous buyers. Does the auctioneer have a good reputation? Do they have the appropriate licenses to conduct the auction? If the answer is no or if no information is available about the auctioneer, it may be best not to participate.
- Get to know the terms and conditions of the auction. Find out if there are any listing fees, winning bidder fees, taxes, or shipping costs you will need to pay. Winning an auction may not be as simple as paying your bid price. Additionally, scammers may try to extort “entry fees” or “pre-auction deposits” from you without even having real items in their auction.
- Don’t give in to the bidder’s excitement. Don’t make impulse purchases when participating in auctions. Scammers will count on you to get carried away with the excitement and might even goad you into a fake bidding war to squeeze more money out of you. Even when you’re on a reputable auction site, set yourself a spending limit and stick to it. If an item is beyond your budget, don’t buy it.
- Understand how auction sites work. Carefully check the rules and policies of each auction website. Pay particular attention to buyer protections put in place by the auctioneer. Find out what policies apply if an item doesn’t deliver or is significantly different from its description. Each site may have different rules and procedures. If a website offers no buyer protection, consider it a red flag.
- Find out how payments are made. Know how and who you will pay before placing a bid. If the seller insists on using a payment method you don’t know about, do some research. If the payment service does not have a customer service line that you can contact for details on how the service works, do not use it to make a payment.
- Check the seller’s contact information. The same goes for the seller or the auctioneer. Check their website and look for valid contact information. If you can’t reach anyone, or if you’re talking to someone who isn’t comfortable answering your questions, don’t participate in their auction.
- Be careful with your personal information. Make sure you trust a website, company or auctioneer before disclosing your personal information. Once your information is in the hands of a scammer, you won’t be able to get it back.
If you spot an auction website that appears to be a scam, report it immediately to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help other consumers avoid falling into the traps of scammers. To find reputable companies, go to https://www.bbb.org.
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