scams

Protecting yourself from scams online

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When Edwin L. Lamont’s wife was looking for jobs on Craigslist, she found two posted within a week of each other that seemed remarkably similar. One was for an opening at Hewlett Packard, the other at Atari. Both jobs offered wages between $18 and $22.50 per hour and promises to work from home.

Lamont, who runs a consulting business, said his wife applied and after an online interview, she was told she got the job but would need special hardware to perform the work. She was told she would be reimbursed for the costs in her first paycheck.

“That's where we terminated the process,” Lamont said. After doing some research on ScamInformer and other Web sites.  Lamont found that people who had been taken reported that the checks never arrived or, if they did, they bounced.

Internet scams may not have gotten more sophisticated -- in many cases, according to security experts, the most successful Internet scams are decades-old mail order scams which criminals can execute faster since they're relying on online communication instead of using the mail or telephone. They also offer criminals more layers of protection from prosecution.

“Many of today's work from home schemes are spin-offs from the same scams that have been working for the last 30 years of my business life,” said John Schulte, president and chairman of the National Mail Order Association. “People fall for them because so many believe there is some 'secret' to making easy money...without work or effort. They set themselves up to be taken.”

Internet scams are still flourishing, thanks in large part to trusting end users who still fall for increasingly convincing pitches.

“The easiest one to fall for is receiving a check for something that you are selling online. The check is too much and the scam artist asks you to send back the difference. Then the check bounces. Not only are you out the product, but the money as well,” said Mitchell P. Goldstein, a Richmond,Va-based attorney who has advised the Virginia Assembly on Internet issues and represented clients who have been taken by scams.

Izzy Goodman, who runs a computer-consulting business in Far Rockaway, N.Y., has been warning people about Internet scams for more than a decade. His efforts aided a New York Attorney General’s investigation that shut down an operation that collected 14,000 credit card numbers after promising people $10 bonuses when they signed up for what ended up being a fake payment service.

“There are sites on the net and eBay auctions posted only for the purpose of collecting credit cards. Their prices are ‘too good to be true’ and since they accept credit cards, people assume they are safe,” Goodman said. “The cost of identity theft can far exceed the cost of the item purchased.”

Goldstein, the Virginia attorney, advises clients to use a credit card when making online purchases, as they offer more protection to people who are robbed than other forms of payment. Schulte offered other litmus tests:

- If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
- If you have to send money to get a kit, don't.
- If they don't have a phone number to call, don't. (If they have one, test it.)
- Ask yourself why do they really need you? With envelope stuffing cons, they tell people they need home workers because they don't want to hire a big staff to stuff the envelopes, but in reality, they could simply hire a mailing house.
- Don't fall for companies that sell you a Web store and give you access to all sorts of different products that they will drop ship for you -- until you understand marketing and mail order selling. Because that's what online selling is. Mail Order.