The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Student scammed on Internet market

“It’s kind of the old adage: buyer beware,” Detective Clay Wanta of the Eau Claire Police Department said about what he thinks is a growing trend in crime: Internet fraud.

In 2009, Minnesota and Wisconsin, numbers 22 and 23 respectively on a list of all fifty states and the District of Columbia, totaled about three percent of the nation’s Internet fraud complainants, according to the Internet Crime Complaint Center. The U.S. fraud victims lost about $559.7 million total, according to the report.

The report states that the average complainant was male, between 40 and 49 and likely a resident of one of the four following states: California, Florida, Texas or New York.

However, as e-commerce grows, so does the threat of fraud, Detective Doug Hubbard of the UW-Eau Claire Police Department said. He said he often worries about the students on campus, who shop online.

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“It’s the fastest growing type of crime in the world,” he said.

Indeed, Eau Claire and UW-Eau Claire are not safe havens from fraud. Detective Wanta said the problem is “very prevalent” in the area. The financial crimes detective said he and his partner dealt with an estimated three million dollars worth of damage from crimes such as fraud, ID theft and embezzlement in 2009 alone.

“There is a boatload of it going on,” he said.

In the past two months, UW-Eau Claire police have investigated fraud cases including a scam that ultimately cost the student victim about $1,900, according to the police report. The sophomore, who asked not to be identified, offered up her calculator for $150 on Craigslist and was contacted by a man who wanted to purchase it. The man sent the on-campus resident a check for $1,900 for the $150 calculator and told the victim to send the rest of the money to an address in Ohio. She was not able to get a refund and had to pay it back to her bank, according to the report.

“We feel frustrated that people are fooled and made victims by things like this,” Detective Hubbard said.

This semester, the department has also dealt with cases of fraudulent uses of credit cards, with victims noticing charges from home shopping networks, shoe stores and other online vendors that they did not authorize, according to police reports.

Detective Hubbard said the department deals with an average of three to five cases of fraud per semester on campus.

Junior Ryan Walker said he uses the Internet to buy everything from movies to his new scooter cover. Though he said the thought of becoming a victim of Internet fraud has crossed his mind, he still enjoys purchasing items from sites such as eBay and Amazon. Walker said he keeps himself safe by only buying from individuals with a good rating on these sites.

ResCom student lead technician senior Matt Sias said that making sure to buy from reputable sites and sellers is important when shopping online. He said that having a secure and unique password for each site is necessary. For example, he suggested making passwords of at least eight characters and mixing upper and lower case letters. He also said to utilize numbers and symbols.

Sias also said to shop on sites that include a better business bureau link and a Secure Sockets Layer certificate, which encrypts data, making credit card transactions safer. Sites that have a SSL certificate will feature “https” instead of “http” in the address bar.

ResCom Help Desk technician junior Joe Botiensek said that when buying from, one should always agree to meet the seller and pay in cash.

Both Sias and Botiensek said that when shopping online, instinct is key.

“If you think for a second that the site is sketchy, look elsewhere,” Botiensek said.

Detective Wanta said that keeping one’s information safe while shopping on the Internet boiled down to one thing: common sense. He also stressed that users should rethink of the information they share on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

He said to keep information such as date of birth and address private.

“People have to remember that information on a social networking site is open to anyone,” he said.

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Student scammed on Internet market