Reports are that nearly 10 million Americans were the victims of online fraud
during 2004. Thousands of con artists are constantly hunting for unsuspecting
people online. Below, we have 5 of the most common scams that are currently
circulating the Internet:
- Auction Fraud:
FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center reports that Online Auction Fraud
accounted for three quarters of 2004's complaints. Here is what usually
happens in the Auction Fraud scam:
The product that you've purchased is never what you actually bided on. It
either is a cheap imitation or it just won't match at all. The descriptions
of the product you are bidding on will usually be vague or completely fake.
One buyer reports he purchased a portable DVD player for $100, but what he
got instead was a Web address for a site where he could buy a player for a
- Phishing Scams:
In this scam, you receive a very real looking e-mail that looks like it came
from your bank, it usually warms you up by trying to warn you about identity
theft and asking that you log in and verify your account information. The
message says that if you don't take action immediately, your account will be
When you click the supplied link, you will be taken to a site that is a
replication of your banks site and has text boxes to enter in the required
account information. Once you enter this information and click send, the
scammers now have all the information that they need to steal your identity
and start opening new credit accounts or what-ever else they would like to
do with this information. In some instances, really smart phishers direct
you to the genuine Web site, then pop up a window over the site that
captures your personal information.
- Nigerian 419 Letter:
Here, you receive an e-mail, usually written in ALL capital letters, that
starts out something like this:
"DEAR SIR/MADAM: I REPRESENT THE RECENTLY DEPOSED MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE
FOR NODAMBIZIA, WHO HAS EMBEZZLED 30 MILLION DOLLARS FROM HIS STARVING
COUNTRYMEN AND NOW NEEDS TO GET IT OUT OF THE COUNTRY..."
The letter states that the scammers are seeking an accomplice who will
transfer the funds into their account for a cut of the total--usually around
30 percent. You'll be asked to travel overseas to meet with the scammers and
complete the necessary paperwork. But before the transaction can be
finalized, you must pay thousands of dollars in "taxes," "attorney costs,"
"bribes," or other advance fees.
Well, of course, there is no minister and no money. Victims who travel
overseas could find themselves physically threatened and not allowed to
leave until they pay a lot of money. Several victims have been reported
killed or gone missing while chasing a 419 scheme.
(FYI, "419" is named for the section of Nigeria's penal code that the scam
- Postal Forwarding or Reshipping Scam:
Remember the "work-at-home" envelope-stuffing scam that promised steady
income for minimal labor, and a minimal fee to get started? Well, the loss
from that scam is small compared to this clever postal forwarding/reshipping
scam. This scam lures job seekers with an online ad looking for a
"correspondence manager" promising big bucks for little or no work. An
offshore corporation without a U.S. address or bank account needs someone to
have goods sent to their address and reship them overseas. You may also be
asked to accept wire transfers into your bank account, and then transfer the
money to your new boss's account. Your reward is a percentage of the goods
or amount transferred.
What you are never told is that the products are purchased online using
stolen credit cards and shipped to your address. You then reship them to the
scammers who, in turn, fence them overseas. So, in reality, you are
transferring stolen funds from one account to another. This dangerous
situation usually ends with your bank account being cleaned out, or worse, a
warrant for your arrest.
- "Congratulations, You've Won an Xbox":
In this last one, you get an e-mail telling you that you are a big winner!
It will tell you that you've won such products as; an Xbox or an IPod. All you
need to do is visit a Web Site and provide your debit card number and PIN to
cover "shipping and handling" costs.
The item will never arrive. A few months later, unknown charges appear on
your bank account.