WS>>Internet ScamBusters #48
carl william spitzer iv
cwsiv_2nd at JUNO.COM
Thu Feb 14 17:43:27 MST 2002
Internet ScamBusters (tm)
The #1 Publication on Internet Fraud
By Audri and Jim Lanford
Copyright (c) 2002 Audri and Jim Lanford
Issue #48 January 10, 2002
First, Happy New Year! We hope 2002 is a truly exceptional
year for you in every way. And a big welcome to all our new
At the end of last year, a reporter from the Today show
called and asked us for the top scams for 2001.
That got us thinking...
We realized that you -- our subscribers -- might also like
to know our "Top 10 Scams of 2001."
So, that's how we'll start off this year.
A word of warning, so to speak. These aren't ranked by
dollars lost or people scammed. There's nothing scientific
about the list. It's just the ten scams that we find the
Given the number of different scams that we see every year,
this is a pretty tough list for us to put together. We've
tried to soften it with a bit of humor, but please, don't
let that make these scams seem any less serious than they
Some of these scams are very dangerous.
You'll note that most of these involve spam. There's a
reason for that. The mentality of a spammer is exactly the
same kind of mindset as a con artist.
As we always say: "If it's spam, it's scam."
So, let's get started. Here are...
Internet ScamBuster's Top 10 Scams for 2001
10. Herbal Viagra
This is really a whole category of scams, relating to the
sale of medical or "alternative" medical treatments online.
Usually using spam to get to the "customer."
If you're lucky, these products will do nothing at all. Some
of them are seriously dangerous by themselves. They promise
cures for life threatening illnesses, causing those who buy
the promise to delay proper medical treatment, sometimes
past the point where it would have helped.
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before buying into any of
these nostrums. It'll save you a lot of headaches and heart-
Folks, consider this: If you wouldn't trust a spammer to
handle your money, why would you take medical advice from
9. Internet Investigator
"Be the first kid on your block to know all
the dirty secrets your neighbors are hiding! Find
out what your prospective mate has hidden in his
past! Find the lost city of Atlantis! Find your
This one is more an annoyance than a real problem. It serves
as a great example of the pure hype that you should watch
out for in online advertising.
Filled with promises of secret knowledge that's not avail-
able to anyone else, it delivers nothing more than a list of
places you can pay to search for information. It's the
perfect example of a pitch that's not quite a scam -- but
clearly misleads in its promise.
Ask yourself this: If this stuff was as easy as the ads make
it out to be, wouldn't you see these "secret techniques" in
magazines and on TV?
8. Pump and Dump
You've probably gotten these. The subject line or first part
of the email says that this is "Highly confidential informa-
This scam is based on touting "advance information" on
specific stocks in an attempt to drive up the price past its
true worth, so the promoters can sell at the higher price.
They pump it up, and then dump it. Hence the name.
This is generally illegal. And certainly a bad way to get
Ask yourself: If it's so confidential, why are they spamming
it to millions of people?
7. Credit Scams
There are all sorts of these that prey on the desires of
people to repair or establish credit.
The worst are the alleged credit repair services. They
promise to help you to remove accurate but negative informa-
tion from your credit record, or to show you how to get a
federal Employer ID Number, usually in very questionable
Not only do these techniques not work, they can get you in
deep trouble for committing fraud.
You're not going to fix your credit while you're in jail.
As far as easy credit, guaranteed approval credit cards, and
home equity loans that don't require equity in your home...
Easy credit is very expensive, with rates far over the norm.
"Services" selling "access to the lenders that will approve
your loan" don't guarantee anything. You're going to have to
go through the same approval process with these lenders as
with your local bank.
This one should be obvious: Cheap money? From a BANK???
6. Auction Antics
You can get a lot of terrific deals through online auctions,
but you need to be careful. Before buying anything that
seems too cheap, or that shouldn't be on an auction site at
all, ask questions.
Look at the seller's feedback rating and comments. You'll
get a lot of clues from that. Check the retail price of the
merchandise. If it's new merchandise, you can probably
expect to pay 1/2 to 2/3 of retail, even at auction.
Avoid sellers with email addresses at free services like
Hotmail or Yahoo unless they have really extensive positive
feedback. And check out some of that feedback to make sure
Whenever possible, pay with a credit card, and check the
merchandise carefully as soon as it comes in. If it's not as
represented, or it doesn't arrive, contact your credit card
company to correct the problem.
Remember the old story of the fellow who raffled off a brand
new Lincoln at a small town carnival? Tickets were $1 each,
and everyone figured they had a good chance.
He sold a lot of tickets, and, as promised, he delivered a
brand new Lincoln... penny.
For more on auction fraud, you can check out the issue of
Internet ScamBusters called "Online Auctions: Deals or
5. Chain Letters
"Add your name to position X, move the name
in position Y to position Z, send 200 copies of
this letter to your closest personal friends, and
very soon you'll have no personal friends left!"
Don't believe the claims about legitimacy, folks. These
things are illegal, immoral, and probably fattening.
Get a good anti-virus program, keep it updated, and keep it
Huh? What are viruses doing in the ranks of scams?
They're actually among the more clever of scams, if you
think about it. Deceptive subject lines, hidden code that
causes you to spread them to your friends, and almost always
appealing to the most common desires.
3. Nigerian Fee Scam
This is an oldie, and a real baddie.
The basic line goes like this:
"I represent some high mucky muck who wants
to get a lot of suspicious money out of my coun-
try, and we need help from you to do it. We'll pay
you stupid amounts of cash to be a front person."
The system escalates until you've got money sunk into the
scam, and they want you to visit the country in question in
person. There have been people who played along with this
and never made it home alive.
Originally this was focused through Nigeria, but with recent
events, you may hear about Taliban leaders wanting help, or
people from other war-torn countries.
Don't respond to these people in any way. People die falling
for this one.
For more on this scam, check out:
2. Identity Theft
We covered this in our last issue. This is a VERY serious
If you haven't yet read this issue, do so now:
Visit, read it, and be prepared.
1. WTC Scams
The spams relating to the World Trade Center began within an
hour of the attacks. They range from appeals for aid to the
victims, usually sent through the spammers' web sites, to
fake news items concerning reported attacks.
There's nothing funny to be said about these.
Don't pass them along, and don't contribute through any site
that doesn't belong to a recognizable charity, such as the
Red Cross or the United Way.
You can read more about these scams at:
When you consider doing any sort of business online, look
over this list and see if the appeal sounds like one or more
of these scams. If so, check it out carefully before sending
Most online businesses are run by honest folks and are quite
safe. Just use a little common sense and caution, and you
should be fine.
On a personal note, we'd like to take a moment to wish you
and yours a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.
Thanks for letting us share your online experience. We hope
ScamBusters has been of help to you, and that we can contin-
ue to help you protect yourself for many years to come.
Audri and Jim Lanford
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