Top Internet Scams
By John Disque
After my article on the Bulldog Puppy scam and its later progress I was considering investigating more internet scams but soon learned that there are so many the task would be so time consuming that it would distract from everything else in my life including my employment with the Knoxville Daily Sun.
Instead I chose to list and outline the top Internet scams and briefly explain how each is conducted.
It's important for you to know that most scams are working off your vulnerability and generosity. While it may appear to some that the people who fall for these get what they deserve – it's not the case. The thing about the Internet is: there are new people connecting every day who are not updated on these scams so there's new potential victims every day who are simply uneducated and have the false opinion that the Internet is 100% wonderful. Others are working off the increasing lack of the human attention span while others are working off the victim's own human greed.
Many scams involve unsolicited email. Be careful with your email account. The first thing you should ask yourself is: How did this person get my email address? If you can't answer that question it's your first "red flag."
The scams that are most successful involve the human heart and compassion. This in itself is a tragedy and my agenda is not to make you close your heart or disregard your own compassion but to simply make you more aware and more careful.
This first scam works off human impatience, greed, and quick easy money.
Let's say you're selling your car on the net for $5,000. Someone calls and offers you $10,000. The extra money is for you to ship the car - and they ask you to return the balance to them. The money order was not good, but it takes the bank 5 days to figure it out. Now the car has been shipped with the balance and the bank wants their money back.
You're out a minimum of $5,000 and the value of the car.
Scammers love natural disasters. Today, with the recent Japan disaster, they are out in full-force.
Because of our incredible news coverage on these issues and because it's in the very blood of humanity to care about the people affected by these disasters a scam artist will often create a very professional website under fictitious business and personal names and go to town asking for donations to help the victims.
Of course the money never gets to the victims and when the donations start to dwindle, the person simply deletes the website, deletes the email accounts, withdraws the money and cancels the finance account.
If you want to help the victims of a disaster, visit the local offices of a long-standing reputable disaster relief or charity organization. Ask them how your money will be used and ask them to show you some kind of proof that it's going to occur. If they cannot do that or you simply don't agree with how the money is going to be used find another one.
If it's too easy or sounds too good to be true – it is. Some scams are new versions of old scams but they've been proven to work.
The classic pyramid scam: Unfortunately this scam is legal but you could be charged with fraud.
You get an email with a list of names. You are asked to send 5 dollars to the person who you see at the top of the list. Then it asks you to add your own name at the bottom of the list and send it to everyone you know.
The person who started the scam explains: if the chain continues to circulate and more people are added, you could become a millionaire when it's your turn to receive the money.
Most of these chains are manipulated so that the original author remains at the top of the list. The original author can and often does make millions while no one else makes a nickel.
Many scams involve upfront fees for promised goods or services and many are taking advantage of people's destroyed or lack-of credit.
Most legitimate banks or lending institutions will not pre-approve anything yet over the years people continue to fall for the "preapproved loans and credit scam" while thinking it's their opportunity to get a second chance or build their credit.
Naturally, these outrageous promises come with an upfront fee that appears to be perfectly reasonable to the victim. What the victim doesn't know is: these people are dealing with several thousands of people at once and, if just a small percentage of people fall for the scam they can make millions while the victim gets nothing.
When it's time to report the matter the fictitious emails and websites, like the scammers themselves, are gone as if they never existed.
Lottery Scams are working particularly well nowadays and a lot of it has to do with the bad economy and the fact that many people are giving up hope on earning the American dream.
We all dream and wonder what it would be like to be handed wealth and we all have proof that this does happen to some people. Why not us?
The email comes and it tells you that you won. Most people's first reaction is: "Yeah right!" Their second reaction is: "What if it's true? How can I delete this email? It could happen … Right?"
If you reply to the email, the second email will state that you have to pay a processing fee to collect your winnings. By this point many people have continued to imagine that the original email is true.
Incredibly, people are willing to pay thousands to collect their millions and by the time they realize they've been hustled, the scammer is long gone.
The next scam has been titled phishing.
You receive an urgent email to log onto your bank's website. The email will usually state that their own site has been hacked and it's imperative for you to confirm your identity before it's too late. The email provides you with a link and the link takes you to a website that looks just like your official bank or PayPal website.
The problem is: it isn't an official website – It belongs to the scammer and now they have all your information and the password to log onto the official account and access to all of your finances. Within minutes your cash is transferred to their account and it often takes days and weeks for the victim to figure out what happened. Naturally, by then, the scammer is long gone.
What a lot of people don't know is: Your bank or financial institution is insured. If they are somehow ripped off, your money is perfectly safe and they are obligated to fix the issue.
Your financial institution will never send you an urgent email like the one described above.
These are just a handful of the top Internet scams. Now, more than ever, if it seems too good to be true – it is. If you're unsure of something do your homework and make the phone calls. Be careful with your heart. It's a precious and wonderful thing but some people can, and will, see it as a weakness.
Published March 26, 2011
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