More than a dozen consumers have been left out in the cold when they spent thousands to order hot dog carts on eBay and got nothing in return.

The Better Business Bureau of Central Virginia says more than a dozen people have complained since August 2009 about a Barboursville company that goes by two names: "Virginia Hot Dog Cart Company" and "New World Hot Dog Cart. Co. "The company allegedly offered two carts on eBay for $1,500 and $4,300, but never delivered them, says Tom Gallagher, president of the local BBB.

One complaint filed this month says a buyer sent the seller money through a wire transfer and was told the cart would arrive in about a month. It never arrived, but a contract did -- saying the buyer had five days after date of purchase to cancel the contract. Unfortunately, it arrived a month too late.

After almost two months of being told that the cart was lost, that there was a new delivery system, that things were crazy because of the holidays AND that the cart would arrive next week -- still no cart. And the owner refuses to return the money.

Gallagher says the BBB plans to contact state and federal authorities.

If you're planning to make a big purchase from an online auction, officials usually recommend an escrow service, particularly for items over $500. The service receives the item from the seller before sending the payment.

EBay recommends Escrow.com, and warns consumers of many fraudulent escrow companies -- so if a seller suggests another company, investigate that company first.

In addition, avoid paying for online auction purchases via wire transfers, which carry few to no fraud provisions compared to credit cards.

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