A quick trawl through the biohazardous gleanings of my local spam filter demonstrates just how breathtakingly tawdry the Internet has become in its awkward adolescence. (And we all had such high hopes!) Hold an e-mail address long enough, and Beelzebub will beat a path to your inbox. Layered in there among the various blatant porno promos and “enlargement” come-ons, it’s a sure bet you’ll find the Internet’s very own three-card-monte games?designed to separate you either from some personal information you probably shouldn’t surrender (hint: 16 digits and an expiration date) or else from your hard-earned $29.95.
On television, you at least get that set of crappy knives, the ones that can cut through granite (which is apparently used as a garnish in some cuisines). But when you buy a tax lien on a phantom piece of Oklahoma real estate, where does your money go and what does it really buy you?
With the New Year upon us, what fraudulent delight will supersede the famous Nigerian found-money scam (that still eats up so much network bandwidth every day)?
Consider the case of Karyn Bosnak, a young New Yorker who plunged into debt buying way too many pairs of Prada pumps and other pricey accessories. As related recently on Salon.com, Karyn’s creative solution to a staggering credit card balance was to become a cyberpanhandler via her own website, SaveKaryn .com. As of November, she had erased her $20,000 debt, owing largely to the engaging candor of her spiel (she admits she’s to blame for her mess), good marketing chops and some generous media-assisted word of mouth.
So brace yourselves for an epidemic of pathetic yarns, as legions of scammers, inspired by the success of Karyn Bosnak, make their way to your portal with their hands out and, maybe, a shiny little cybertear in their eye. If you feel your hand trembling atop the mouse, immediately click instead to www.pueblo.gsa.gov/scamsdesc.htm. It’s the Feds’ online consumer information site, which updates the latest in cyberscams and lets you know what to do when you think you’ve found one.
As for any Karyn wannabes out there, let them save themselves.