A new breed of cyberfraudster is increasing its activities to take advantage of the Internet?s potential for pulling off elaborate scams with little danger of being caught, a US consumer organisation has warned.
The National Consumers League on Wednesday published a Top Ten of favourite Internet fraud schemes, warning that users were highly susceptible to being taken for a ride. The League said it was currently receiving around 100 complaints a month; in the whole of 1996, they only received 389 complaints.
The scale of the scams range from petty fraud of around $10 to massive $10,000 confidence tricks, according to Susan Grant, Internet Fraud Watch Detector at the League. "It?s like a giant yard sale in cyberspace," she warned. "Cybercrooks are in your pocketbooks with a click of a mouse."
Among the most popular scams are online services which promise free Internet access with the purchase of software that is never delivered or alternatively paying for passwords that don?t work to allow access to Web sites. Fraudsters are also able to offer sales via unsolicited email or spam onto newsgroups, bulletin boards and email sites which often never results in any deliverable or usable products.
So-called investment opportunities and business franchises are increasingly popular. These deal with investements in Internet malls, sale or leaseback deals and franchise opportunities carrying unsupportable income claims. Similarly work at home schemes should be approached with extreme caution.
Book sales and magazine subscriptions should be regarded as suspicious unless they are from a reputable supplier, such as Amazon.com, or from the publishing house that prints the magazine. Never buy from a site which claims to represent a publishing house as there are cases on record of customers finding that multiple debits have been made from their credit card when only one was authorised.
As a general rule, the NCL recommends that end users should steer clear of sites that contain wild promises of profits, guarantees of credit despite a bad credit history, suspiciously low prices or prizes on offer that require up-front payments.
The Internet Fraud Watch was launched in March 1996 to help consumers distinguish between legitimate and fraudulent promotions in cyberspace and route reports of suspected fraud to the appropriate law enforcement agencies. It can be found at http://www.fraud.org/ifw.htm
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