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May 30, 2003     Cape Gazette
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I 28 - CAPE GAZETTE, Friday, May 30 - June 5, 2003 Brady, FTC and 28 states target internet auction fraud Consumers fleeced by auction scams Attorney General Jane Brady, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and 28 state attorneys gen- eral recently announced a law en- forcement crackdown targeting internet auction seams that bilked thousands of consumers out of their money and their merchan- dise. The crackdown, Operation Bid- der Beware, coordinated by the FFC in conjunctionwith the Na- tional Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), resulted in ini- tiating more than 50 criminal and civil cases. Auction fraud is the single largest category of internet- related complaints in the FTC's Consumer Sentinel database, which logged more than 51,000 auction complaints in 2002. "We are seeing more and more internet auction fraud cases," said Brady. "Buyers ineed to:inform themselv and conduct their pur- l Poetry prize Continued from page 27 This will be a blind judging by a jury which will read manuscripts from June 1 through Sept. 1. Man- uscripts received before or after this period will be discarded un- read. The winner will be notified by Oct. 15. Entrants should send a chapbook-length manuscript of poetry(no more than 24 pages of poetry) with two title pages, one with the author's name, address, phone number and emall address (if possible) and the other with ti- tle only to: Dogfish Head Poetry Prize, c/o John Milton and Com- pany, Quality Used Books, Milton e, 19968. de one page with dedica- tion and acknowledgments, and a table of contents. Manuscripts will not be re- turned. Include a self-addressed stamped postcard for acknowl- edgment of receipt of yourmanu: script. Contestants may include a check for $9 for a copy of the win- ning chapbook. This includes the prepublication price of $7 plus shipping and han- dling. Ordering the winning chap- book will not affect your chances of winning. Makethe check payable to: John Milton and Company Books. Note on the face of the check that it is for a copy of the winning chapbook. The author of the winning man- uscript agrees to submit a black and white photograph suitable for use in promotion within five days of notification, and agrees to ap- pear in person at the fifth annual John Milton Memorial Poetry Festival to both read from the winning work and the awarding of the prize. Argonne House Press reserves the right to reprint and distribute chases very carefully." Many of the cases involve straightfor- ward seams where con- sumers won the bid, sent in their money, BRADY but never got the product for which they paid. Defendants in One FTC case com- bined auction fraud with serial, identity theft to conceal their identities and lay the blame on in- nocent bystanders. "I am very pleased with the strong initiative of the FTC on this issue. The scares we see are across state lines, and federal en- forcement is an important compo- nent if we are to be successful in shutting down these criminals," said Brady. In Delaware, the Attorney Gen- eral's Office Coum.Protection UnkTiled suit in the Court of Chancery in April 2003 against I the chapbook as demand warrants with standard Argonne House royalties commencing on any copies printed and sold after the initial print run of 100 has been distributed or sold. In other words, the prize is in lieu of royal- ties on the firstl00 copies. Michelle Cohen and Vincent Napoli, doing business as In- stagifts. The complaint alleges the defendants failed to deliver merchandise advertised and sold through the internet auction house, eBay. The defendants, op- erating out of a New Castle Coun- ty location, offered items such as digital cameras and computer printers at auction. Arkansas, California, Connecti- cut, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michi- gan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wash- ington, West Virginia and Wiscon- sin and members of California's They promised the winning bid- Computer and Technology Crime der would:receive the merchan, High Tech Response team, includ- disc within four weeks. Instead, consumers with winning bids re- ceived neither merchandise nor a refund of payment. The enforce, ment action alleges violations of the Consumer Fraud Act and the Deceptive Trade Practices Act and seeks an injunction, civil penalties and reimbursement of costs and fees incurred by the state during its investigation. In addition, the FTC shut down four auction seams and U.S. Dis- trict Courts froze their assets, pending trial. In addition, 29 state and local law enforcers have an- nounced 56 law enforcement ac- tions including lawsuits, cease- and-desist orders, consent agree- ments, assurances of voluntary compliance, warning letters and criminal prosecutions. Participants in Operation Bid- der Beware include the attorneys general of Alaska, Arizona, ing the San Diego district attor- ney, San Diego city attorney, Or- ange County district attorney and Orange County Police Depart- ment. In addition to enforcement, the FTC, attorneys general and other agencies are launching a con- sumer education campaign to alert consumers about internet auction fraud, and provide tips on how to avoid falling prey to it. Good in- formation can be found in "Inter- net Auctions: A Guide for Buyers and Sellers," available at the FTC's online shopping website www.ftc.gov/onlineshopping Some suggestions for online auction consumers include the following: Become familiar with the auc- tion site. Find out what protec- tions the auction site offers buy- ers. Don't assume one site's rules are the same as another's. Before bidding, find out about the seller. Avoid doing business with sellers who can't be identi- fied. Be especially wary of sellers who try to lure people from the auction site with promises of a better deal. Protect privacy. Never pro- vide a Social Security number, driver's license number, credit card number, or bank account in- formation until the seller or online payment or escrow service is checked out to ensure legitimacy. Save all transaction informa- tion. Those with problems that can't be resolved with the seller should contact the site operator. If that doesn't work, a complaint should be filed with the Attorney General's Office at www.state.de.us/attgen 800-220- 5424 and the FTC at www.ftc.gov or call toll-free 877-382-4357. Copies of the, FTC complaints and a comprehensive case list are available from the FTC's website at http://www.ftc.gov. 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