COVID-19 and related supply disruptions have made it hard to find and purchase some categories of goods. While many efforts are being made to resolve that situation, Scammers are using the supply crunch as a cover for scams. We hope that sharing some of the reports received by the Division of Consumer Protection can help you become aware of current fraud trends, and can help you take steps to protect yourself.
Everyone loves puppies, including scammers. Sometimes the emotional draw to buy a particular puppy is strong enough that obvious warning signs are ignored. Learn the normal price range for the type of dog you want, and be wary of any advertisement that is substantially below market value. Some scammers reuse text or pictures to repeatedly advertise the same “dog” for sale in different venues. A reverse image search can be used to see if the picture from the advertisement has been used previously.
The Division has received multiple complaints about scams offering firearms or related parts for sale. Numerous websites have popped up offering hard-to-find items for sale. One of the telltale signs of a scam website is a lack of legal compliance information. Various regulations apply to firearm transactions. Firearms cannot be shipped to your door, and instead must be mailed to a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL). Any website offering to ship a gun directly to you should be considered a scam. Similarly, some gun parts are illegal in certain states. Reputable sites list these restrictions, but scam sites often do not.
Various payment methods prohibit payments made for gun purchases. A website offering payment via gift cards or a peer-to-peer platform is likely fraudulent. Sales of firearms are also prohibited on most social media platforms, but many scammers still offer to sell guns or ammunition through direct messages or comments on posts.
Video Game Consoles
The new generation of consoles (such as the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, and Nintendo Switch OLED) have been particularly difficult to purchase. Many online communities and social media accounts have been created to help people find these goods. Scammers target members of these communities, often sending private offers to sell a console. Beware of any account privately offering to sell you a console. A website offering to sell you the latest console for less than MSRP is likely fraudulent.
High demand has led to a shortage of chips and graphics cards. Some listings on auction websites advertise just the empty box that the graphics card comes in, instead of the card itself. An unsuspecting buyer who thinks they found a deal may rush to purchase that empty box, only to find out when it arrives that the great deal they found was anything but.
What You Can Do About It
Regardless of the item type, some general rules can help you avoid online scams:
– Don’t rush to buy! Slow down and make sure a seller is legitimate before you pay.
– Always use a payment method with refund protections. A seller who only accepts non-refundable payments, wire transfer, or gift cards is suspicious.
– Be cautious if a website lists a wide range of difficult-to-find goods in-stock.
– If a deal looks too good to be true, you can assume that it is too good to be true.