Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today announced lawsuits against Nicholas Lamb and Robert White, Ohio residents accused of running a craigslist scam offering to sell video game systems, video games, phones, and phone cards.
"These individuals took advantage of unsuspecting consumers," DeWine said. "They posted hundreds of items for sale on craigslist and accepted payment from dozens of consumers but never delivered the products. Simply put, they committed a scam."
According to the lawsuits, Lamb and White offered PlayStation 3 systems (PS3), PS3 games, and Boost Mobile phones and phone cards via craigslist posts that primarily targeted out-of-state consumers. Their posts indicated that they were Ohio residents, but they told potential buyers that they previously lived in the buyers' states to gain the buyers' trust.
Lamb and White usually requested that payment be made through a wire transfer service, such as Western Union or MoneyGram. Once the buyers completed the payment, the men did not deliver the products and did not provide refunds.
The Ohio Attorney General's Office currently has 29 consumer complaints against Lamb and 27 against White. The office believes there may be more victims because both men made hundreds of posts on craigslist. Craigslist currently provides a direct link on its website to the Ohio Attorney General's Office for consumers to report would-be scammers, www.craigslist.org/about/scams.
The lawsuits charge Lamb and White with multiple violations of Ohio's Consumer Sales Practices Act, including failure to deliver and advertising products without having possession of the products. In the lawsuits, the attorney general seeks permanent injunctive relief, civil penalties, and full restitution for consumers.
The Internet Crime Complaint Center has reported that online fraud costs consumers hundreds of millions of dollars. To protect themselves, consumers should follow these guidelines:
Check a seller's reputation. Check feedback ratings and reports from the Attorney General's Office and the Better Business Bureau. Never give out personal or financial information unless you know the seller is legitimate.
Contact the seller in person. Verify the seller's physical location and phone number. Deal locally with sellers you can meet in person. Always meet in a public place and bring someone with you for safety. Limit the amount of personal information you give to a seller. Only reveal what is absolutely necessary.
Be wary of requests for wire transfers. Requests for wire transfers often signal fraud. Instead of wiring money, pay with a credit card, if possible. When you pay by credit card, your transaction is protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act—a federal law that gives you the right to dispute unauthorized charges.
Keep printed records. Print purchase confirmations and all other documents related to your transaction.
Trust your instincts. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you suspect fraud, report it.