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Long fraud scam hits eBay

LA outfit wins buyers trust then takes the money and runs

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It's one of the oldest tricks in the fraudsters' book and it's got the LAPD sniffing around eBay. According to CNET, police in Los Angeles are investigating claims that dozens of people handed over money for computer equipment advertised on eBay but have never received the goods. The seller in question is understood to have sold via eBay prior to the alleged sting and had built up a reputation for being trustworthy. There's nothing new about this, it's called the long firm fraud - you conduct yourself as any law-abiding individual would. You win the trust of the people you do business with and then you hit them hard. The investigation will be carried out by Los Angeles and Orange County High Tech Task Force and will involve the FBI and the US postal service too. The CNET piece said that when the police arrived at the seller's offices they found them empty. LAPD detective Terry Willis said: "It was a plain old-fashioned bust out. I think these guys are long gone. But you never know, you may get lucky." You never know, indeed. The long firm fraud was an old favourite of the London criminal fraternity in the 50s. You set up as a building firm and order small amounts of materials and equipment from small suppliers - being sure to always pay cash up front. When they feel they can trust you, you ask for credit, being sure to always pay your bills on time. Before long you claim you have just won a massive deal and will need a generous extension on your credit - you get it because you always pay your bills on time, only this time you don't. Instead you disappear. There wasn't much the law could do to prevent this sort of activity fifty years ago - it's nice to know that, even in the fast moving world of IT, some things never change. ®

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