The messages flood electronic mail boxes and clog the Internet:
MAKE MONEY AT HOME! ORDER CHIPS CHEAP! EARN CASH FAST!
But online as in life, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
On October 9th, the National Consumer League issued a list of the top five
Internet scams, based on complaints from online users.
The nonprofit organization, based in Washington, launched Internet Fraud
Watch this year to monitor online scams and stop scam artists.
Topping the scam list are pyramid schemes, in which early investors are paid
with money sent in by later investors.
In one $6 million case pursued by the Federal Trade Commission, Fortuna
Alliance L.L.C. used a World Wide Web page to lure thousands of people to
pay between $250 and $1,750 by promising them $5,000 per month as others
enrolled. The FTC won a temporary injunction against the company.
"Behind all the techno-jargon and the mathematical mumbo jumbo, this is just
an elaborate, electronic version of a chain letter," said Jodie Bernstein,
director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "Early entrants may
make some money, but eventually, the pyramids collapse and most of the
'members' are left holding the bag."
Bogus Internet-related services came in second. In these cases, scam artists
promise to design Web sites or set up Internet access accounts, then demand
payment and disappear. The consumer is left with nothing.
Third is equipment sellers who promise great prices on memory chips or other
equipment, but then deliver equipment of lower quality or fail to deliver
anything at all.
Fourth was fraudulent business opportunities, where crooks use unreasonable
predictions of profitability and other misrepresentations to lure investors.
Consumers who buy in are usually unable to do business using the supplies
provided or can't make enough to cover the original investment.
Finally, work-at-home offers traditionally found in the classifieds are now
showing up on the Net. Rather then addressing cards or stuffing envelopes,
consumers are told they can make hundreds of dollars a month converting
graphic and photo files or doing word processing.
The crooks require the consumer to buy expensive software, but the hapless
worker often is told the completed job doesn't meet the company's
"standards." The league recommends that consumers call the Internet Fraud
Center or the FTC before sending money to online companies.
Log on the WebSite at http://www.fraud.org, or call 1-800-876-7060.
If you spot obviously illegal operations on the E-Ways, please
forward copies of the messages to NFIC at frau...@psinet.com.
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