Consumer Alerts

Scam Artists Posing As Sellers on eBay

Consumers should be on the alert for scam artists posing as sellers on eBay, the California-based Internet auction site, who victimize bidders through bogus second chance offers. To avoid falling victim to this scam, we offer some tips and precautions below.

In the emerging fraud scheme, scam artists try to lure bidders interested in a product away from the e-Bay website by using “My Message,” which allows seller and buyers to communicate on the auction site. Through posted messages, legitimate sellers are able to build a positive reputation from customer ratings, product reviews and favorable reports on business transactions.

Manipulating the eBay messaging system, the scam artist posing as the seller contacts bidders to announce the winning bid fell through and offers a second chance to buy the product by wiring the purchase price to the non-eBay email address provided. The scam artist is counting on consumers being tricked into a direct sale and being lured by the positive feedback seen on eBay. However, the message is actually from a con artist who assumed the identity of the legitimate seller who already sold the item to the winning bidder. The second chance bidder who falls for this scam is left empty handed, paying for a product that will never arrive.

  • Here are tips to protect yourself:
  • Stay on eBay's website. Using the site and its service affords you certain protections, like the eBay feedback system or buyer protection program.
  • Do not wire money to a seller. Both Western Union and MoneyGram International encourage you to not use their services when paying for eBay purchases.
  • Do not send a check directly to a "seller" who contacts you after the auction has ended and offers to sell you the item on which you originally bid.
  • Use a payment method specifically designed for Internet auction sites, like PayPal or BidPay.
  • Report suspected fraudulent activity to eBay's Customer Support. This includes reporting anyone who solicits you to buy or sell your items off eBay's site.

To report fraud to the California Attorney General and the Federal Trade Commission, use the Attorney Generals Office Complaint Form and Federal Trade Commission Complaint Form.

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"Strike Five Mega Lotto" Winning Scam Could Leave You A Loser

California consumers will want to be on the alert for an apparent “Strike Five Mega Lotto” winnings scam in which an authentic-looking but bogus cashier’s check arrives in the mail with your name on it. The accompanying letter says the enclosed $3,550 check from a “Wells Fargo & Company Issuer” is provided to “help you make the payment” of the $3,300 insurance/processing fee required before the big funds “you have won” will be paid to you. Supposedly you get to keep the extra $250 for “your trouble.”

Unfortunately, consumers falling for this lotto-winnings scam will find themselves becoming “losers” in the end. You not only will have to repay your bank the entire amount of the bogus check you just cashed since the check was drawn upon a non-existent bank account and your bank couldn’t collect the money it just gave you; you likely will never again see the money you wired for the so-called insurance/processing fee. So, you will lose the money you withdrew from your bank and the money you sent away!

The “Strike Five Mega Lotto” scam is reported surfacing in New Mexico. The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office found that the phone number listed to activate the claim for the prize in the “Strike Five Mega Lotto” (1-647-219-1496) originates from Toronto, Ontario in Canada; the purported company mailing address (2200 5th Avenue in Seattle, Washington) belongs to a Ramada Inn in downtown Seattle; and calling the phone number listed in the letter results in a recorded message saying that the mailbox is full.

This scam appears to be the latest twist on familiar schemes known by such names as Canadian Sweepstakes and Nigerian Check Scams. In these scams, consumers receive a check to be cashed that looks real and are asked to pay a processing fee to cover handling and insurance, or to provide a partial refund of the check amount since the check amount was incorrect. Since the check is bogus, the consumer is simply taken for the money.

California consumers who come across these types of scams can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office.

Beware Of Scams . . .

  • If you didn’t enter the contest, you’re not likely to be a winner so don’t trust any “winning” payment check;
  • No legitimate lottery requires a winner to pay money to claim their winnings;
  • Be skeptical of a large check sent to you from someone you don’t know;
  • Don’t send money outside the country as part of a transaction fee;
  • Avoid cashing a check and sending a portion of the cash to someone you don’t know, even if that person tempts you by saying you can keep a percentage as payment for your trouble;
  • There’s no guarantee that a check from someone you don’t know is authentic, even if your bank hands you cash for it. In the end, if the check is a fake, you will be responsible for repaying the money the bank gave you.

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Credit Card Scam Alert

Identity thieves are always trying to pry personal information from you through one scam or another. One current version has scam artists posing as a credit card company security official to get you to give them your card security authorization number so they can rip you off. Don't fall for it!

If it's really your credit card company calling you with questions about billings, they should already have all the information they need about your account. So don't get scammed into giving information to a caller - no matter how official they may sound.

If you have concerns about your account, place the call to your credit card company yourself.

Don't become a victim. Protect your information.

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The Office of the Attorney General Issues Warning on "Living Trust Mills"

California consumers should be on the alert for con artists operating "living trust mills" that fraudulently sell annuities and trusts to senior citizens. The Attorney General says consumers in these scams end up paying a lot of money to sales agents for living trusts that really aren't in the best interest of the consumer.

In preying on the elderly, so-called investment agents make consumers believe the money they have in the bank and their current investments would be safer if handled by the sales agent. These sales agents often pretend to be experts in living trusts to give themselves a cloak of legitimacy. They frequently work in assisted living centers, churches and other places where seniors gather, hooking elderly victims through free seminars and other sales presentations.

Consumer Tips.

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Spam Mail

The Office of the Attorney General won the state's first-ever anti-spam lawsuit against a California company found to have violated laws prohibiting unsolicited commercial email, false advertising and unfair business practices.

You can report spam mail to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Send a copy of the unwanted or deceptive messages to, or visit their website, FTC Complaint Assistant.

To view California law governing spam, see Section 17538.4 of the Business & Professions Code.

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Legal Aid Services Advisory

The Attorney General reminds consumers to be wary when seeking out "legal aid" or "legal services" because the end-result could be harmful and interfere with your legal rights.

"While true non-profit legal services groups in California provide valuable assistance to people who cannot afford to hire a lawyer, there are some individuals and businesses out there trying to take improper advantage of consumers and harm consumers with shoddy legal work,".

The Attorney General offers some tips for consumers in a new legal assistance advisory.

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