MADISON, Wis. (WSAU) - State officials are offering tips to keep yourself safe from scams while dealing with online classified sales.
Consumer Protection spokesman Jerad Albracht says you should always complete your transactions in person because most scams require a measure of anonymity. "If you try to set up your sales or purchases through meeting in person with these people, the scam won't even follow through for the most part." The Craigslist service recommends this as well, saying the move will help stop 99 percent of scams.
Never wire money to someone using Western Union or other companies. Anyone asking for a money order is probably looking to run off with your money. Also do not accept cashiers checks for more than an item is worth. Those checks are likely bad, and when the scammer asks you to send them the balance, you'll be on the hook for the bad check when it's discovered at a later date.
If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Albrecht says one common scam is the posting of phony rental properties. "The price looks great and everything looks good, and we find out later that it's a fake listing. They pulled the content from a real estate website, so the listing itself doesn't exist." Some people have made the sale and started to move, only to find someone else living in that rental. Always inspect the rental before you try to move in or send any money.
Albracht says a number of communities are offering the lobby of the police station as a place to complete online transactions. "You ask the person to meet you at the police station, and there's a good chance you're not going to be scammed."
If you believe that you are about to be scammed, stop pursuing the deal and stop talking with the other party. Call police or the Wisconsin Consumer Information Hotline at 800-422-7128.