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Rip-Off Alert | Protecting yourself from internet fraud scammers

Internet fraud graphic (MGN Online)

Internet fraud is a top complaint for consumer advocate group, the Better Business Bureau. There were almost 300,000 complaints last year.

One rip-off wasn't just costly ... it was a nuisance for an unexpected victim.

Liviu Surdu owns Newman Transport International, a small Oregon operation that delivers construction materials all over the U.S.

Surdu tells our Portland Sinclair sister station he never created a website for his company and was surprised when his business suddenly got a number of calls about delivering vehicles.

"I never moved any cars. I'm not in the car business," said Surdu.

Surdu says those calls came from 20 people coast-to-coast, wanting vehicles sold under Kelley Blue Book Value.

"They opened a website in my name using my MC cause I'm public," said Surdu.

An "MC" is a motor carrier number the federal government issues to commercial drivers.

"The price was so good, the people were naïve. They didn't need a search. So they were selling cars, motorcycles," said Surdu. "They send the money online and the stuff never got there. The cars, the motorcycle, nothing ... Those consumers aren't the only ones impacted."

"Not only did the victims lose out here, one person lost $21,000, but the business owner becomes a victim as well," said Stephen Mayer, Market Place Manager with the BBB Northwest.

The Better Business Bureau calls it a double whammy.

"It is so simple to impersonate a company online. All you got to do is just google it and get their phone number, their website, contact information, and you can put that all on your website and pretend to be them," said Mayer. "That is exactly what happened in this case, unfortunately."

In most cases, the BBB says people wired money to accounts. The BBB says not to do that, but to instead use your credit card for online purchases.

"Credit card companies have a whole team of lawyers who can help you dispute those charges and you are going to be much more likely to get your money back via credit card," said Mayer.

There are ways you can protect yourself, though.

Make sure your computer software is updated and has the latest anti-virus program available. Also, make sure you do your research; don't buy something you haven't seen.

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