For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Bob Cooper
(208) 334-4112

Date: April 30, 2003

Attorneys General and FTC Target Internet Auction Fraud

(Boise) - Attorney General Lawrence Wasden joined the Federal Trade Commission and 28 state attorneys general in a crackdown targeting Internet auction scams. Operation Bidder Beware, coordinated by the FTC and in conjunction with the National Association of Attorneys General, resulted in more than 55 criminal and civil cases.

Attorney General Wasden's Consumer Protection Unit identified two Idaho residents in the nationwide sting.

Bradley Bottum of Hayden advertised digital cameras on e-Bay, accepted payment and then failed to send the cameras. The Attorney General's Office entered into a Letter of Agreement with Mr. Bottum. Bottum agreed to provide $580.47 in full restitution to the Idaho consumers affected.

The Attorney General's Office received 19 consumer complaints alleging that Paul Ward of Nampa defrauded consumers by advertising sunglasses, computer equipment and computer games on e-Bay. He accepted payment and then failed to deliver the merchandise. In an effort to avoid detection, Mr. Ward frequently changed his user name and email address. The Attorney General's Office served Mr. Ward with an investigative demand. Ward was subsequently arrested by a Nampa Police officer and was charged with 21 felony counts of computer crime.

"Idahoans should be very careful and use caution when making Internet purchases," Attorney General Wasden said.

Consider the following tips before making purchases over the Internet:

  • Become familiar with the auction site.

  • Find out what protections the auction site offers buyers.

  • Don't assume one site's rules are the same as another's.

  • Before bidding, find out all you can about the seller. Avoid doing business with sellers you can't identify, especially those who try to lure you off the auction site with promises of a better deal.

  • If the seller insists on using an escrow or online payment service you've never heard of, check it out. Visit its Web site and call its customer service line. If there isn't one, or you call and can't reach someone, don't use that service.

  • Protect your privacy. Never provide your Social Security number, driver's license number, credit card number, or bank account information until you have checked out the seller and the online payment or escrow service, if you're using one, to ensure legitimacy.

  • Save all transaction information.

  • If you have problems during a transaction, try to work them out with the seller, buyer or site operator. If that doesn't work, file a complaint with the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Unit and the FTC.

  • The telephone number for consumers calling the Attorney General in the Boise area is (208) 334–2424. Idaho residents outside the Boise calling area can call toll–free (800) 432–3545.

You may contact the FTC at: www.ftc.gov or call toll–free (877) 382–4357.

Attorney General Wasden and U.S. Attorney Tom Moss warned Idaho consumers earlier this week to be extremely cautious when selling high-value items to foreigners over the Internet. Wasden and Moss said a counterfeit check scheme has targeted at least 4 Idaho residents in recent weeks.

- End -

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