Scams committed through fake internet auctions jumped during the period of the pandemic, according to data from the Association of Official Auctioneers of the State of São Paulo (Aleoesp). Hundreds of web pages use the names of vehicle insurers, national, state and local traffic departments, public banks and official auctioneers, causing significant damage to buyers.
Since 2019, 2,000 fake websites have been identified. In 2021 alone, 1,063 were reported to have forged auctions, which is double what had been discovered in 2020: 510. From 2016 to 2019, 420 virtual addresses were found. The trend shows that this type of crime is becoming more frequent.
The association’s president himself, auctioneer Sérgio de Freitas, had his name misused for an auction that did not actually exist. “You drop one, the next morning two appear. The number has grown a lot during the covid-19 pandemic, but even with the return of face-to-face auctions, scammers continue to act,” he said. As the bids represent a large part of the value of the good, the losses are high. “There are many cases where the person deposits all their savings, R$40 thousand, R$50 thousand, even more in a false bid”, he lamented.
The association makes available for consultation, on its website, a list of fake auctions and also a list of official auctioneers. According to Freitas, only the official auctioneer registered with the Board of Trade has legal authorization to hold auctions and receive auction values.
Mason Valter Silva Jacinto, 45, decided to invest the R$ 30,000 he had obtained from the sale of a property on his land, in Minas Gerais, in a used vehicle auction. It was the scam of the fake auction. “I only found out when I went to pick up the vehicles and the address was for a steel company. The watchman said I wasn’t the first to fall for the tale.”
Like Jacinto, thousands of people have been falling for this fraud. Scammers insert fake websites on the internet with identification and images similar to the real ones and offer real estate or vehicles at prices below market value.
The forgers post photos, documents and information about the goods and create mechanisms for the victim to bid. After winning the auction, the person receives the auction letter with the payment order via bank slip or through deposit in accounts registered in the name of oranges, as if it were the account of the official auctioneer. After payment, the money disappears.
ALERT. Scammers always act boldly. In December of last year, after detecting fraudulent pages that tried to simulate the institution’s official Electronic Auction System, the Federal Revenue Service was forced to publish an alert. The Revenue clarifies that the auctions of goods seized by the institution are not carried out on private websites, only through the Electronic Auction System, accessed via the Federal Revenue’s official website, and it is necessary to have a digital certificate to participate.
“Payment for goods sold at auction is made through a Federal Collection Document (Darf) and never through deposits or transfers to third-party accounts”, he warns.
To the Estadão, the IRS informed that several sites that pretend to be their auctions are not hosted on a domain server in Brazil, which makes it difficult to remove them from the air. “But it does not prevent the Federal Revenue from seeking all means to do so”, he said.
ADVERTS. In Paraná, fraudsters used a website of the former Cascavel transit company, extinct in 2019, to apply scams earlier this year. At least two people, victims of the fraud, registered police reports. One of them, a professor, paid R$41,000 for a car valued at R$60,000. When he headed to the courtyard to withdraw the vehicle, he was informed of the coup.
According to the vice president of the Auctioneers Union of Paraná, Hélcio Kronberg, the victims of the scams are people who are not informed about the auctions and are taken in by the ads on social media. “Forgers continue to deceive these people who, for the most part, are participating in an auction for the first time or see an opportunity where there is none. In our auctions, we take care to provide the address of the goods so that they can be visited beforehand,” he said.
A woman from São José dos Campos lost BRL 30,000 in March after “purchasing” a motorcycle offered at auction by a company in Marília. The victim said that, after seeing photos on the internet and researching the auction, she was contacted by phone by a person from the company who was willing to help her, as it would be an advantageous deal.
CRIMES ON RISE
In October, the Civil Police of São Paulo took down seven websites that used the name of Detran-SP for virtual auctions of vehicles that were not delivered. The suspects distributed the amounts in a series of third-party accounts and oranges. More than 20 victims were identified throughout the state, with losses exceeding R$ 1 million.
Although the Public Security Secretariat (SSP) of the State of São Paulo does not have statistics on this fraud alone, typified as a crime of embezzlement, Civil Police delegate André Junji Ikari, from the State Department of Criminal Investigations (Deic), said that these Crimes, as well as other electronic scams, have grown a lot during the pandemic. “Even now, with the return of face-to-face activities, the scams of fake auctions continue to happen. The biggest difficulty is identifying the server that hosts these sites, as many are in countries that do not have an agreement on criminal matters with Brazil, such as China.”
The information is from the newspaper. The State of São Paulo.
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