Crime Prevention Tips
Internet FraudCriminals are recognizing the vast potential of cyberspace. Many of the same scams or frauds that for years have been conducted by mail or phone can now be found on the Internet.
The following are examples of the most frequent types of Internet fraud:
Free Internet access was promised with the purchase of software that was never provided. Consumers paid for a password to access pictures but never received it. Or people downloaded a viewer to see pictures and were hit with undisclosed international telephone charges. A breeder paid to place ads on a Web site for dogs she raises, never got the ads, and the company is now out of business.
Sales via unsolicited e‑mails, newsgroup postings, chat room discussions, Web sites, online classified advertisements for everything from T‑shirts to toys, calendars to collectibles: the merchandise was not delivered, arrived in damaged condition, was defective or was misrepresented. I wouldn’t buy from a company online whose good reputation I didn’t know from other sources of information.
Offers through Internet auction Web sites for antiques, new and used computer equipment, videos, games, etc.: the sellers never delivered the items or misrepresented their value. “Shills” were used to drive up bids. Sellers tried to raise prices after the highest bids were made.
Pyramid schemes are similar to multi-level marketing. Pyramid schemes provide financial incentives to recruit new distributors. They are generally prohibited because it is a mathematical certainty that the pyramid will collapse when no new distributors can be recruited. When that happens, most people lose their money. The Internet offers a fast lane for pyramid builders by facilitating a large-scale recruitment pool in little or not time.
Investments are made in “Internet malls” that advertise goods or services in cyberspace. The buyer may purchase ATM machines that will supposedly be leased back to the seller and generate profits for buyers. The potential earnings from this scheme are misrepresented or unsubstantiated; promised business assistance is never provided.
In the old “envelope stuffing” schemes, consumers are told they will be paid for addressing envelopes, but they actually receive instructions on how to sell others information on how they can make money stuffing envelopes. There are false promises of working as an answering service or approving credit card applications. Computer‑related work‑at‑home scams may require the purchase of equipment or software to produce things like computer graphics that will supposedly be bought by companies.
Win a free trip with payment of a registration fee, but you are required to buy a companion ticket at full price. The prize in an online contest turns out to be a discount price on a satellite service package. The consumer supposedly wins cash but is asked for his or her bank account number. Alleged “sweepstakes” winnings require an advance fee to collect.
Credit cards are offered on Web sites and via unsolicited e‑mail despite bad credit, if the consumer pays an advance fee. Fees of as much as $100 are paid, but the credit cards are never received.
Manuals on how to hypnotize people; listings of celebrities’ phone numbers and addresses; books on how to stop paying taxes, speed reading kits, and other self‑help guides that are never delivered.
Magazines are never received from companies falsely representing themselves as subscription services for well‑known magazine publishers. Consumers outside of the U.S. are offered club memberships to get magazines at lower prices than normal foreign rates. Vendors make other false claims of discounts and sometimes debit consumers’ bank accounts more than once when only one debit was authorized.
The “Hijack” is a relatively new form of Internet-related fraud. Consumers are prompted to download a purported “viewer program” to see computer images for free. Once downloaded, the consumer’s computer is “hijacked” by the viewer program which turns off the consumer’s modem speakers, disconnects the computer from the local Internet provider, dials an international number and connects the consumer to a remote site. The expensive international costs are charged to the consumer’s telephone bill until the telephone is turned off.