Lessons learned after man falls victim to online scam

Published On: Aug 13 2013 08:59:32 PM EDT   Updated On: Aug 14 2013 10:40:00 PM EDT

Whenever you buy something online from a person or company you don't know, be careful. If you're not, you could end up losing a lot of money.

"It seemed legit," said John who was scammed on Craigslist.

John doesn't want to reveal his full name because he still can't believe he lost $1,300 in an online scam, but he's willing to reveal what happened to him.

"I was in search of parts for my Suzuki motorcycle and as I do a lot of Internet shopping," he said.

John found the parts he wanted on CraigsList 40 percent cheaper than the usual price. The seller asked to be paid with money orders.

"This is the money order. One for $1000 and the other for $300," John explained.

John sent the money overnight and was told the parts would be sent immediately.  Days turned into weeks and then months. At first, he gave the seller the benefit of the doubt.

"I thought maybe he's not trying to scam me and just fell on hard times," he said.

"The buyer was left waiting and waiting for parts… that were never going to come," explained US Postal Inspector Gil Webb.

"I felt like someone broke into my house and robbed my house," said John.

Postal Inspectors say as more and more people shop online, the number of scams are growing.

"The mindset of the scammer in this case is they want money and they don't care what it takes to get it.  It's a very emotionless crime that - they're just very greedy," said Webb.

Inspectors say consumers need to be cautious buying online.

"It's a red flag when the seller only wants to communication with you through emails because emails can be very anonymous," said Webb.

Eventually, the seller in this case, was arrested and is serving jail time for scamming John along with 14 other people.

"The fact that he is in jail is a victory - not only for me - but also for all of the other people who were scammed by him," said John.

John also sued the seller and was awarded more than $4,000 by a judge. Authorities say you should try to create a paper trail if possible when buying online so you have documentation of everything.  One more piece of advice is to try to get a good phone number for the person you are buying from.