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The Editors: Local BBB chief says online auctions carry biggest risk of Internet fraud

Most Internet fraud is through online auctions, the local Better Business Bureau president said during yesterday's taping of The Editors television show.

Richard Eppstein warned Internet bidders to be especially cautious about autographed items.

Auctions made up about 80 percent of reported Internet fraud last year, he said. Sometimes bidders received a different item than they thought they bought. Sometimes they didn't receive anything at all. He urged Internet buyers always to pay by credit card instead of check because credit card companies can withdraw payment.

Sometimes, in “pump and dump” schemes, a few people bid on an item under many different names to boost its price, said Mr. Eppstein, who heads the Toledo BBB office, which oversees northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.

Other Internet scams often are passed along by well-meaning people in positions of power who have not done their homework, Mr. Epstein said. He said he knows of school teachers who have sent what turn out to be fraudulent deals home with children. One such is a supposed sign-up for a savings bond from Gerber baby food.

He said state and federal regulators do not always do the optimum job of controlling Internet fraud, in part because many Internet scams attempt to take many people for a relatively small amount of money each.

“Anything that you get on the Internet that says `Send this to all your friends' is probably a swindle,” he said.

However, he said he does not respond to unwanted e-mails that seem to be scams by asking to be taken off their mailing list.

Such a reply indicates to the sender that the e-mail address is active and might result in more, shaky offers.

The Editors will be broadcast at 9 tonight on WGTE-TV, Channel 30, and at 12:30 p.m. Sunday on WBGU-TV, Channel 27.

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