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Friday
Jun282002

Look Out for Internet Fraud

With the explosion of Internet communications, there has been a corresponding increase in the number of frauds committed over the Internet. Commercial email should be treated in the same manner as telephone and mail solicitations - with caution. The Internet is simply a way for scam artists to put a new spin on their old tricks.

According to the Oregon Department of Justice, variations on several common scams are among the most common Internet frauds.

The Advance Fee Scam (4-1-9 Schemes)
Often packaged as an offer from a foreign national, these scams ask for bank account information, blank letterhead and confidentiality in exchange for a percentage of some multi-million dollar payoff. Eventually you must provide up-front or advance fees for various taxes, attorney fees, transaction fees or bribes. Other forms of 4-1-9 schemes include c.o.d. of goods or services, real estate ventures, purchases of crude oil at reduced prices, beneficiary of a will, recipient of an award and paper currency conversion. For more information visit www.secretservice.gov/alert419.shtml.

Chain Letters
Chain letters promising big returns of money or gifts are illegal in Oregon. Consumers should be wary of any offer which requires them to "continue the chain" or forward a solicitation on to other individuals. Despite grand claims, a chain letter will NEVER make you rich.

Work-at-Home Schemes
Not all work at home opportunities deliver on their promises. Often they fail to disclose that the offer requires many hours of work with no pay. Frequently, there are unannounced and hidden costs associated with the program. Countless work at home schemes require you to spend your own money to place newspaper ads, make photocopies or buy the envelopes, paper, stamps and other supplies or equipment you need to do the job. Companies sponsoring the ads may require you to pay for instructions or "tutorial" software. These schemes have cost consumers thousands of dollars and many hours of wasted time and energy.

Weight Loss Scams
Products and services offering instant and effortless weight loss simply do not work. Weight loss and fitness programs should be carefully reviewed in consultation with a family physician or knowledgeable weight loss professional.

Adult Entertainment Sites
Some spammers offer adult content websites offering "free" access or access without a credit card. They direct consumers to download a "dialer" or "viewer." These programs may disconnect your Internet service and redial to a toll charging long distance number with rates up to $7/minute. Some consumers have received bills for tens of thousands of dollars.

What Should You Do If You Receive an Email Scam?
You can forward email scams to the Oregon Department of Justice Consumer Hotline or to the Federal Trade Commission. Alert your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to the unwanted solicitation and the ISP from which the solicitation was sent. Finally, delete the message.

For more consumer protection information, visit the Oregon Department of Justice website.

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