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Beware of scams when selling personal items on the Internet

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

People who sell items, especially vehicles, on Internet sites need to beware of scam artists.

"Anyone who is selling their vehicle online needs to realize that there is no fool proof method of conducting business," Indiana State Police Detective Scott Krueger said in a recent press release about a four-month investigation into Internet scams.

After contacted by several victims in September 2007, ISP detectives investigated a Gary, Ind., man whom allegedly scammed unsuspecting car sellers from Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan using the Internet to sell their vehicles.

Apparently the man would contact victims by e-mail and offer to purchase their vehicles listed on various websites. When the very well groomed man, who always made transactions over the weekend or holidays when banks were closed, would arrive to take possession of the vehicle he used bogus personal information and fraudulent cashier's checks for payment.

Officials believe the man perpetrated more than 20 of these scams since September 2007. During the investigation officers found fraudulent cashier's checks and hand written notes listing information about more past and future victims.

Krueger urges people who feel using the Internet to sell a vehicle to plan ahead and use caution.

"Meet the buyer at the bank during business hours, hopefully this will help in ensuring that the check is legitimate and will clear," he said, adding that people need to take the precaution of verifying the buyer's address and telephone number. "Also if someone is contacting you about purchasing your vehicle and does not negotiate an asking price, be wary if it seems too good, it probably is."

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation's consumer protection agency, has issued several consumer alerts in recent years that indicate check scams are on the rise, with scammers creating fake checks that look so real bank tellers are reporting being fooled.

While no local officials are aware of anyone in Clay County being a victim of this type of scam, Brazil Police Chief Terry Harrison urges people to be cautious.

"People need to know who they are doing business with," Harrison said about how selling property through personal advertising can create potential problems. "It is hard enough to know who you are dealing with normally, and can be especially difficult if you are selling something over the Internet."

This is an on-going case and further charges are pending. If anyone knows someone or believes they might have been a victim of this individual or a similar scam, contact Detective Scott Krueger at 219-696-6242.

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