The Houston Chronicle DOES NOT provide the following services:
- Collect funds from/for the buyer or the seller
- Hold funds from/for the buyer or the seller
- Guarantee funds from/for the buyer or the seller
- Store merchandise from/for the buyer or the seller
- Ship merchandise from/for the buyer or the seller
Buyer beware if anyone you contact regarding merchandise, vehicles, housing or employment indicates that the Houston Chronicle in any way insures or endorses the transaction - this is a FRAUDULENT AD.
How to avoid identity theft
Always exercise extreme caution when asked to provide any personal information to unknown sources over the phone, fax or Internet.
If you are not familiar with the inquirer, you should never supply personal numbers which may include your Social Security Number, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, PIN numbers or the select digit code on the back of your credit card.
Any questions regarding validity of the inquirer should be directed to the proper local consumer protection agencies.
- Do not disclose Social Security numbers. A Social Security number is not necessary for an employer to do a background check or credit check.
- Never give out personal financial information.
- Check the company's contact information and Web site. Verify that a company is legitimate before continuing to do business or applying for a job.
- Be cautious of doing business with overseas companies or employers. A legitimate overseas company should have the resources to conduct business in the United States without using a privately held bank account.
Common examples of Internet fraud
Listed below are some common examples of Internet fraud that we've become aware of. For more information, for questions or to report an instance of Internet fraud, visit the United States Government's Internet Fraud Complaint Center.
Overpayment Scam. In this very common scenario, a scammer/buyer will contact a seller and negotiate a deal on merchandise. Many times, this buyer is located outside of the United States, and poses as a "broker" or a "third party" on behalf of another interested party. The buyer will send a cashier's check (or money order) for more than the asking price of the merchandise. The buyer will instruct the seller to send the difference for the overpayment. Unfortunately, the cashier's check or money order used to originally pay the buyer is counterfeit and will be returned to the seller with insufficient funds. The seller is then cheated out of his or her own cash, plus any merchandise that was sent. For more information on this type of scam, please see the IFCC warning.
Too good to be true? Products that are priced way too low should raise a red flag. For instance, a motorcycle that is priced thousands below book value and is in excellent condition should indicate you should proceed with caution. While not all bargains are scams, you may see clues when you contact the seller. Be wary of sellers from out of state / country; incorrect phone numbers or the inability to reach the seller via phone or physical address; and special situations such as the seller needing money quickly. To protect yourself, ask specific questions about authenticity, serial numbers, etc. Do your part to protect yourself - if you feel like a deal is too good to be true, it usually is.
Work-at-home scams. Be very skeptical of any "company" that advertises a work-at-home opportunity and requires advance payments or deposits on items or services. Be skeptical of earnings claims that sound too good to be true. Ask detailed questions about what exactly you will have to do to earn money with the program. Who will pay you? Will you be paid on commission?
More information: Better Business Bureau
Phishing. This is a technique where criminals create fake, but very real looking e-mails and Web sites to gain personal information for the purpose of identity theft. These e-mails usually appear to come from legitimate businesses (e.g. Wells Fargo, PayPal, eBay, Citibank) and are designed to fool recipients into divulging their personal data such as account numbers and passwords, credit card numbers and Social Security numbers. Often these e-mails ask you to "update your account information" or "check your status" and they even provide hyperlinks that appear correct, but take you to a different Web site.
Remember, legitimate businesses will never ask you to divulge your personal information via e-mail. If you have any questions as to your account status with a particular business, you should contact that business directly.
More information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phishing
Wire fraud. In this scenario, the scammer/buyer will request permission to wire-transfer money directly into the seller's bank account. By providing confidential bank account information to the buyer, your account may be compromised. Always use caution when providing any form of personal information.
Customs scams. There are recent reports from the IFCC involving Eastern European countries and high incidences of fraud. Many of the fraudulent buyers of items are located in these countries and often ask that the seller ship in a manner that will avoid customs or taxes. Sellers should be wary of this type of behavior.