Don't Get Hooked: Online Buying

One definition of a "fence" is a buyer or seller of stolen merchandise.

These transactions used to take place out of a car trunk or in a dark alley.

But the Internet has changed that.

The item you found on EBay or Craigslist looks good. And the price looks even better.

But that item could be stolen...if it exists at all.

The Arkansas Better Business Bureau has some advice to help make sure that when it comes to buying don't get hooked.

Online sites like EBay and Craigslist have warnings...but they are designed to protect the sites as much as they are designed to protect you.

The Arkansas Better Business Bureau warns that buying from a modern-day fence no longer requires a face-to-face.

"The danger is of course buying merchandise from a third party or used merchandise and that merchandise may have been stolen," warns Mike Rohrer with the Arkansas Better Business Bureau. "It may be hot. So we're encouraging people to take precautions to make sure you're not involving yourself in buying some stolen merchandise."

Beware merchandise photos that look too good. They may be stock photos.

If it is a big-ticket purchase, ask for a serial or VIN number before buying. That way you can call the manufacturer and see if it has been reported stolen.

If you buy use a credit card or PayPal to pay...they offer some protection.

And if the price is unrealistically low, ask questions. The seller may be seeking to unload a hot item.

"Yes we are seeing an increase in the calls we get," says Rohrer. "Something to the effect of I have sent my money to this person and I didn't get a product or the product I got was not what it was supposed to be."

And if you decide to buy and elect to meet the seller in person to complete the transaction, bring a friend and arrange to meet in a public place during daylight hours.

Follow all these tips and the likelihood of you getting hooked by a scam will go way down.

Air date: July 9th, 2013