Internet Scum

So you decided to sell something in ebay, you post it and attach a beautiful picture of the item. One day you receive an email from a bidder, he is in urgent need of your item and is asking if you have more to sell. He has offered a bid many times larger than what you expected. There’s just one catch. – you have to ship it to him because he is from another country. No matter, he said in the email to include the cost of shipment so he can send you the total amount including the bid price for the item through bidpay. The next day, you received an email from bidpay saying that the amount is held in escrow and will be released to you after confirmation from a shipper that the item is already onboard. Thinking of the easy money, you contact a shipper and eagerly send the item on its way. After a few days you wonder why the money has not been credited to your account. You are a victim of another internet scam.

The internet has made it easy to research, buy/sell things, find business opportunities and investments. Access to information is just a click away. Precious time is not wasted traveling back and forth when you can do commerce with ease and in the convenience of your own home. You save money needlessly spent for transportation and eating out. Transactions are fast and private. No more curious and sneering looks from others. Such convenience oftentimes lulls some in letting their guard down and believe everything they see on the screen. This false sense of security gives others the opportunity for abuse.

That same non-personal and unemotional nature attracts criminal activities. It provides anonymity, an indispensable tool for scam artists and fraudsters. Free to roam, they are invisible to their victims and oblivious to the pain and suffering they cause. They prey on the vulnerable, gullible and weak. Many people have lost their entire savings and retirement money. Here are a few useful tips to protect you from becoming a victim.

�·Do not believe in everything you see and read. Just because the information is posted does not make it true. Due to the unregulated nature of information in the internet, everything is suspect. This does not mean that you should not trust the internet entirely. It just means that you should be careful in the sites you visit, get information, post information, buy/sell your items and send/receive your email.

�·Never trust sites at face value. Just because it looks real does not make it so. Scam syndicates have the know-how, tools, patience and initiative to mimic sites, emails and documents making them appear authentic. Verify the sites before any transaction. Be sure and get the listed telephone numbers. Check the website, telephone, address and location by looking it up in the telephone directory or through an operator.

�·Use the Universal Resource Locator (URL) of the site. Avoid using links and type the web site name directly in your web browser. Fake links may take you to duplicate sites that can steal your personal and credit card information. Links may also be sent via email. Lately donations intended for disaster victims have been diverted by syndicates using these fake links.
�·Protect your identity. An email asking you to re-enter (phishing) your login name, password, personal information is very suspicious. A site usually asks only for your email address. If you plan to join or register as a member of a site, check the authenticity of the site first. Be careful in giving out sensitive information such as your social security number, middle name especially via email. Personal and credit information that you reveal can be used by syndicates for identity theft.

Ã?·Transact only in secure sites. You don’t want to give your information just to anybody. Check what security measures the site you plan to give your information is enforcing. Verify and check the sites first. Secure sites encrypt information sent to it to avoid unauthorized access and tampering.

�·Avoid giving away your name, telephone number, email, or chat names online. Syndicates are very patient. They also have a large network. You may evade them during their first try, but they can disguise themselves as new acquaintances through telephone calls, online chatting or email. After befriending you, they can skillfully extract vital information. You may be unaware that they have gradually referred you to their bogus sites and deals. Beware of unusually friendly and persistent callers, chat mates and emails.

Ã?·Avoid those “secret transaction” emails. These usually involve a supposed agency or a foreign government involving large sums of money. Usually it involves looking for a claimant, heir or account to transfer the money. By agreeing to the “secret” deal you will have a percentage of the money transferred. Naturally you also have to share your account and credit card number together with your personal information.

Ã?·Ask yourself, “Is it to too good to be true?” Well, it probably is. Scam artists and fraudsters usually lure you with the guarantee of fast and easy money. They prey on innate greed and the promise of earning large sums of money by essentially doing nothing. They come in many forms such as surveys, businesses at home, new products/processes and books that discuss taking advantage of business loopholes, shortcuts or formulas. As proof they frequently provide a list of “testimonials” from grateful members or endorsements that you can’t verify. Of course the “benefits” are for members only and is available only after the payment of fees.

Ã?·Think. If they are really earning that kind of money, why would they want to share it with you? Seriously, if you were to discover something that will earn you lots of money will you share it? Of course not!!! So why would people with such “discoveries” advertise it in the internet and ask for money? In the first place they are already “supposedly” earning from it. Why should they need more money from you? Sharing the idea for extra profit makes such claims all the more unbelievable.

�·Maintain your computer. Install firewalls and up to date anti-virus protection. Be wary of installing downloads that may contain programs that can steal information in your computer or damage the hard drive. Check the source of your downloads.

Ã?·Educate yourself. You may be surprised with the different methods and “modus operandi” employed by scammers and fraudsters. The Nigerian (419), phishing, pyramid, cyber blackmail, employment and lottery scams are just a few. These schemes, together with their different versions, increase in number everyday. Educating yourself on how they work is the best way to avoid them. Sites that are often “used” or mimicked like ebay, bidpay, banks, etc. post warnings on how to spot fake transactions, emails or documents.

In the internet, just like in real life, a little cynicism helps. Being a little skeptical is better than being sorry. Be careful with the people, websites and companies you transact with. Only through proper security, verification and thorough check-up can you minimize the possibility of becoming another victim of “internet scum”.

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