Consumer Alert: Beware when selling antiques online

Thinking about selling something on an online auction site? You need to beware of scam artists who only have one goal in mind.

Computers, sports memorabilia, designer clothing and cars are just of a few of the items offered for sale everyday online auction sites. As the popularity of these sites grows, they've started to include rare antiques and vintage bank notes. All of these items, at one time or another, are being used to lure unsuspecting victims into a scam.

"And what they were doing was selling collectible and vintage bank notes through an online auction site," says U.S. Postal Inspector Greg Botti.

Legitimate sellers were selling those bank notes, but a con artist was on the other end purchasing them.

"The buyer would agree to buy the notes. Upon receipt, sometime would pass, he would say 'I never received the items, or I only got part of the items' initiating a process called a credit card charge back," says Botti.

The scheme worked. Postal inspectors started tracking the case and found hundreds of victims and $120,000 in losses.

"The individual used dozens and dozens of credit cards used various user IDs through the auction sites to mask their identity that is what allowed the frauds to be perpetrated over a lengthy period of time," says Botti.

If you are selling a unique item on the internet, inspectors have a tip for you.

"Take a picture of the item or items that you're selling. A lot of times the item is very unique and may have a serial number," says Botti.

Keep any receipts from the post office as well as any correspondence between you and the seller.

Inspectors say consumers need to protect themselves against these scam artists who are motivated by one thing.

"Getting money from people through lies and deceit," says Botti.

The suspect in this case has been charged with mail fraud and is awaiting trial. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

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