The NSW government and police warned Internet buyers that serial offenders have infiltrated the technology to swindle unwary customers. NSW Police Minister John Watkins said the State Crime Command's Fraud Squad had activated two separate Strike Forces - and others could soon be launched - to track organised crime within eBay.
"Customers need to be aware that the vast majority of transactions on eBay are legitimate and are completed satisfactorily. But customers should be aware that thieves and rip-off merchants have targeted this industry. We can't be complacent and ignore security risks," Watkins said.
More than a million Australians have signed up to eBay and this number is expected to increase in popularity. Fraud Squad Commander Detective Superintendent Megan McGowan said police were investigating two cases of fraud in Australia and are also negotiating with the FBI over the extradition of an offender residing in the country. McGowan adds that international protocol will be imposed on Australians defrauding US citizens, and that they will be extradited once proven guilty of fraud.
"We are working with eBay to ensure the best possible advice to shoppers and sellers on this growing network. Users very happily underbid everybody else and they get what they think is a great bargain, except they're sending money off to people who in many cases can't be traced. The key message from a police perspective is by all means use the service, but be mindful of the risks," McGowan adds.
Watkins urged users to follow eBay's guidelines which advised customers to use a third-party transaction service. He said the government would continue to monitor any emerging crime trends and adapt legislation accordingly.
"I will ask the Attorney General to consider on-line and electronic scams in his review of all fraud legislation this year," Watkins said.
However, Katrina Johnson, eBay Australia Trust and Security Director, said that in the 600 cases reported, not all were fraudulent. These cases include people who did not receive the goods because of miscommunication with the seller, or it got lost in the mail. Situations like these are handled by eBay mediators and only given to the police when there is evidence of criminal intent or fraud.
"Ninety-nine point nine percent of the transactions done in eBay are successful and the level of confidence is still high. We are very focused on educating people on how to make the safest trading, and we are heavily promoting for the users to read and apply the guidelines in our Web site, and use their common sense when doing business online," Johnson said.
Johnson adds that in rare situations when the buyers are unable to get back their money for undelivered goods even when they followed the Web site's guidelines, they will be eligible to receive payment from eBay of up to AU$375.