Holiday shoppers looking to purchase a Wii or Playstation3 online should be weary of auction fraud, according to Symantec.
The scarcity of the two consoles with retailers in the holiday shopping season is driving gaming enthusiasts to become first time Ebay users. At the auction site, unwitting consumers may be playing right into the hands of scammers.
The security firm points to two common methods by which criminals scam eBay buyers and sellers out of their money. The warning comes as part of Symantec's monthly home and home office security report.
"Because so many people are after these hot items, the auction prices can get quite high," said Symantec researcher Mark Fossi. "This is where the scammer steps in."
According to Fossi, scammers will often use a provision with many auction sites that allows the seller to award an item to the second-highest bidder when the buyer with the highest bid doesn't pay.
The scammer will pose as the seller and tell the second-highest bidder on a recently closed auction that the winner was unable to pay and offer to "sell" the item to that person
"Naturally," said Fossi, "once you send the scammer your money, you never receive the item."
Buyers aren't the only people that could be subject to scams this holiday season. The report also cautions that online sellers could fall victim to criminals.
According to Symantec, scammers will often search for expensive auctions and place winning bids with the hopes of defrauding the seller.
After winning an auction, the scammer sends the seller a check for a larger amount than the asking price, telling the retailer to use some of the extra amount to cover shipping and handling fees and wire the rest to the scammer's account.
The seller's bank will later inform the seller that the check was a forgery and that it will refrain from depositing the funds. This will leave the seller without the money that he wired back.
Checking the details on the auction page, in particular the item number and the the buyer and seller names, can go a long ways towards preventing fraud, said the spokesperson.
EBay displays the name of the winning bidder on the item's page, so when the seller decides to award the item to the second-highest bid, that information is automatically updated.
Users should always verify that their name is listed as the winning bidder and that the item they view is, in fact the item that they had placed a bid on.
For sellers, eBay recommends waiting until a check has cleared to ship an item, and the company urges sellers not to exchange funds that exceed the agreed transaction amount.
"Part of this also boils down to user education," said the spokesperson. " The more that we can make people aware of these scams, the less likely they are to fall for them."
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