Don’t believe anything you read. This is rapidly becoming my mantra for conversations with my mother. Every so often she’ll call and say “Somebody sent me this email asking me to [fill in request here], and I wondered if I should.” These requests range from donating to unknown charities, sending email to ten friends to achieve the dream of this, that or the other bedridden child, and buying products at “outrageously low prices because WE CUT OUT THE MIDDLE MAN“.
By now she knows better, but she asks anyway. And who wouldn’t be tempted by offers to save 70 percent on prescription medicine or to help out some poor kid?
Besides, someone nearly took me for a ride last week, too. And I’m about as skeptical as they come.
I got a perfectly legit-looking Second Chance letter that appeared to come straight from eBay. The note said that the high bidder on an item (some furniture) had reneged on his bid and that I now had the chance to purchase the item. Luckily, my wife was looking over my shoulder before I could trot off to PayPal. She said that the email address in the email didn’t sound right. We went back to the original listing, and sure enough, the seller’s email was different. In fact, the listing had a small note indicating that they’d had some fraud problems, and unless we received email from their listed address, it was bogus.
Yep, I was nearly the victim of the latest in email fraud. It’s enough to make you wish that the penalties for online scamsters were much high than those the recently convicted brother/sister spam team in Virginia will face.
But until the laws get strong enough–and enforceable enough–to stem the problem, here are some resources to help you keep ahead of the bad guys.
Snopes.com is a great source of information about online urban legends, scams, and schemes. When in doubt, go there first.
If you think you’ve been had, complain at the Internet Fraud Complaint Center, a cooperative effort between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.
The Federal Trade Commission also has a number of fraud complaint forms online for victims to use.
Good luck, and keep one hand on your wallet!