The Federal Trade Commission and its partners in government and the technology industry today unveiled a new section of the OnGuardOnline.gov website with tips and activities to help buyers and sellers spot and avoid Internet auction fraud. The site’s interactive game, “Auction Action,” allows consumers to rack up points answering auction-related questions from different categories.
In 2005, the FTC received 80,450 complaints related to Internet auctions, or about 12 percent of the total number of complaints, making it the second most common kind of complaint after those about identity theft. The new Web site explains how Internet auctions work, the pros and cons of using different payment options, and how – as a buyer or seller – you can avoid the most common types of fraud.
The Internet auction complaints consumers sent to the FTC generally dealt with late shipments, no shipments, or shipments of products that weren’t the same quality as advertised; bogus online payment or escrow services; and fraudulent dealers who lured bidders from legitimate auction sites with seemingly better deals. Most complaints involved sellers, but in some cases, the buyers were the subject. The information on OnGuardOnline.gov includes tips for avoiding these frauds and others.
In addition to the auction information, OnGuardOnline.gov covers other online safety topics, including spyware, identity theft, phishing, and spam scams. The multimedia, interactive consumer education campaign was launched last fall by the FTC and a partnership of other federal agencies and the technology industry. OnGuardOnline.gov has received over 650,000 unique visits, and the FTC has distributed over 800,000 brochures and bookmarks. There is no copyright on the quizzes or other information on OnGuardOnline.gov; the information can be downloaded by companies and other organizations to use in their own computer security programs.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.