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A woman in Victorville, Calif. thought she was getting a great deal when a man in a grocery store parking lot agreed to sell her an iPad for $80 — $120 less than his original asking price.

Turns out, she was just getting a tile.

Tamara Cortez discovered the deception once she opened the box purportedly containing the iPad sold to her from the back of the man’s black SUV. She bravely shared her story with the Victor Valley News, despite her embarrassment over the sale, in order to keep others from befalling the same fate.

Cortez is not the first person to share such a cautionary tale. In fact, the old “fake-iPad-in-a-parking-lot” scam is more common than you may think.

In 2013, a Baltimore man similarly got saddled with a $100 piece of tile when he agreed to purchase the product at a gas station. In another variant, a South Carolina woman got tricked into buying a block of wood for $180 outside of a McDonald’s.

Other consumers have inadvertently purchased display models, mirrors, glass and modeling clay in lieu of the popular tablet over the last few years. Online versions of the fake iPad scam have also been known to pop out from time to time.

How to Avoid the Scam

It’s always a good idea to keep the old adage “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” top of mind when you are considering a purchase. As a best practice, you can avoid parking lot sales entirely and stick to reputable sellers. The Better Business Bureau can be a great resource for vetting online and bricks-and-mortar retailers.

If you are thinking about making a purchase from a lesser known seller, you can ask to inspect an item before you go ahead and turn over some cold hard cash. Be similarly cautious when handing over personal and/or financial information, like credit or debit card details, so you don’t unwittingly help scammers commit fraud or steal your identity.

If you think you have already accidentally jeopardized your identity, keep an eye on your credit report. Mysterious items are a sign fraud is occurring. You can check your credit for free online at AnnualCreditReport.com and you can check your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com.

You can learn more about what to do if your identity is stolen here.

More on Identity Theft:

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