EBay goes far to fight fraud -- all the way to Romania
The country is the top source of organized scams on the auction site. The company has sent over equipment and a team to help the authorities there.
But when it comes to online auctions, particularly for big-ticket items such as cars that can yield $5,000 a scam, Romanians own the game. Romanian police estimate that cyber-crime is now a multimillion-dollar national industry, as important to organized criminals here as drug smuggling or human trafficking.
The Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, ranks Romania fifth in its table of naughty nations. But most experts agree that doesn't give Romanian criminals their due. Much of the cash being made on auction fraud reported as originating in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Spain or Italy is actually being picked up in those countries by Romanian money mules. An EBay fraud ring busted last year in Chicago, for example, has been traced to Pitesti, Romania.
EBay, which doesn't even operate a site in Romania, won't talk dollar figures but acknowledges that the country is the No. 1 source of "professional fraud." On a November 2006 visit to the Romanian capital, Bucharest, FBI Director Robert Mueller said the vast majority of Internet fraud committed on "one prominent U.S. online auction website is connected to Romania or Romanians."...
A classic Romanian scam is the "second chance auction." The mark: an EBay user who has narrowly lost an auction. The scammers can see that the user was prepared to spend, say, $145 on a particular item. They will then try to guess the user's e-mail address so that they can make contact off the EBay platform to offer a second chance to buy the item. Users commonly have the same e-mail address as their EBay user name, so the scammers may send out 50 e-mail messages using an EBay user name and the most common domain names such as Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo.
The Romanian scammers then cook up elaborate stories to persuade their victims to send money via unrecoverable methods such as Western Union -- even instructing people not to tell Western Union the payment is for an EBay transaction, claiming Western Union will charge them an EBay surcharge of 10% (it doesn't), and instead to say they're sending money to their Romanian cousin.