Internet Online Safety Tips: Avoiding Scams In Cyberspace

Scams can be found everywhere and the internet is no exception. Here are several scams commonly found on the internet. Scams can be found everywhere and the internet is no exception. Here are several scams commonly found on the internet.

The information superhighway has become the newest medium for scam artists. Some of the same villains who used telemarketing, infomercials and the U.S. postal service are now turning their sights to the home computer and the realm of cyberspace. Utilizing the world wide web, scammers are able to reach more potential targets, not just in the U. S. but around the globe.

Many of these scams are run by two methods, classified and disguised advertising. Classified ads have the largest number of misleading promotions. These ads may advocate quick and easy weight loss, miracle cures or unusual medical devices, for example. Others push investment schemes or "business opportunities." Still others taught using your PC to make money in your spare time.

Disguised ads are the second category and more difficult to recognize. Many of these disguised ads are found on bulletin boards and chat forums. People contributing to the bulletin board have ties to businesses that sell products or services related to the bulletin board area. Chat forums or chat rooms are live discussion groups which some advertisers use without disclosing their true interests. These may not be obvious ads, but may appear to be an objective, open discussion. But the cyber scams don't stop there. Here are some of the more common scams on the internet.

Web Auctions: In 1998 and 1999, the National Consumers League announced their top ten internet scams list. Number one on the list were web auctions. If you're looking for a hot collectible or a cheap airline ticket, online auctions may appeal to you. But before you place a cyber-bid, consider how some online auction houses work. Like a traditional "live" auction, the highest bidder wins. That's where the similarity ends. Because an online auction house doesn't have the merchandise, the highest bidder deals directly with the seller to complete the sale.

If you're the highest bidder, the seller typically will contact you by e-mail to arrange for payment and delivery. Most sellers accept credit cards or use a third-party escrow agent to handle the entire process. Be especially cautious, however, if the seller asks you to pay by certified check or money order. Some online sellers have put items up for auction, taken the highest bidder's money and never delivered the merchandise.

Web auctions can be deceptive in other ways, as well. Here's an example: one online auction offers airline tickets and vacation packages. At first glance everything looks fine. They set a very low minimum bid and a closing date. However, if you return on the closing or end date you'll find they extended the bidding time 3 or 4 days into the future. Thus the longer the auction continues, the higher the bidding goes. Airlines tickets purchased from a travel agent may be the same price or cheaper, without the hassles and risk. In other words, the item is no longer a good deal, since extended bidding has pumped up the price.

Online investing: Online investment fraud comes in many shapes and sizes. One category targeted at older Americans are called high-yield "prime bank" investments. Seniors who depend on interest and dividend income are vulnerable to con artists pushing phony "prime bank" investments that promise risk free annual returns of 20 percent to 200 percent or more.

These schemes go by other names such as: bank-secured trading programs, yield investment programs or standby letters of credit. So what's the common denominator? All are supposedly debt obligations guaranteed by the world's top 100 banks, hence the name, prime banks. Swindlers claim only big corporations, foreign banks or ultra-wealthy investors know about them. They're pitched as secret trading programs the Rothchilds and Rockefellers set up years ago, which are only offered to the elite. Often, investors are told not to investigate the offering independently or risk being permanently expelled from participating.

Self-employment or work-at-home scams: This type of scam was also on the National Consumers League top ten listing. Promises of a sure path to riches through work-at-home schemes are prevalent on the net. They take aim at anyone seeking supplemental income.

The most common work-at-home scam promises you'll earn money stuffing envelopes. For example, you're promised $2.00 for every envelope you stuff. In fact, no actual envelope stuffing ever happens. Instead, you pay to register and then you're instructed to send the same envelope-stuffing advertisement via bulk e-mail to others. The only money you can earn would come from others who fall for the same scam and pay to register. Finally, if you did do some type of work for them, such as craft work, they'll refuse to pay you, saying your work didn't measure up to their quality standards.

Chain letters: Here's an old favorite, up-dated for cyberspace. The speed and efficiency of emailing has caused email hoaxes to increase dramatically. Many work this way: you're asked to send a small amount of money (or some item) to each of four or five names at the top of the list, and then forward the message including your name at the bottom, via bulk email. Many of these letters claim to be legal, but they're probably not. Furthermore, nearly everyone who participates in these chain letters loses money. Don't bother.

As with any deal, beware of the offerings in cyberspace and be very selective about using your credit card online. It may be high-tech, but it can still be a scam.

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