March 8, 2003
Top Internet Scams
The Associated Press
A look at the Federal Trade Commission's Dirty Dozen scams most likely to arrive by bulk e-mail:
Business opportunities that make it sound easy to start a business that will bring lots of money with little work. Many are illegal pyramid schemes.
Bulk e-mail offering to sell millions of e-mail addresses to which you can send bulk e-mail. Sending bulk e-mail violates the terms of most Internet providers, who can shut you down. Some states have laws regulating unsolicited e-mail.
Chain letters in which you send $5 to $20 to each of several names on a list, replace one name with your own, then forward the message. Chain letters are illegal; most who participate lose their money.
Work-at-home, in which you pay a fee to stuff envelopes or make crafts. Then you learn the e-mail sender never had employment, but instead sends instructions on how to bulk-mail the same scheme. Promoters of craft assembly sell you the goods, then refuse to buy the finished products as not up to standards.
Health and diet scams that don't work, including pills to lose weight, herbal formulas said to dissolve fat and cures for impotence or hair loss.
Effortless income, such as unlimited profits exchanging money on world currencies. If they worked, everyone would use them.
Free goods, such as computers, electronics or long-distance phone cards. You pay a fee to join a club, then find out you "earn" the goods by bringing in other participants. It's a pyramid scheme.
Investment opportunities offering high rates of return with no risk; they're schemes in which early investors are paid with money contributed by later ones. The early investors believe it really works, and invest more, then the scheme closes down, taking the money.
Cable descramblers sell a kit to build a device to get cable television without paying subscriber fees. The device doesn't work because cable systems use technology they can't crack. In any case, stealing service from a cable company is illegal.
Guaranteed loans or credit, usually said to come from offshore banks. The home equity loans turn out to be lists of lenders who will turn you down if you don't meet qualifications; promised credit cards never come through.
Credit repair scams that offer to erase negative credit information. They can't.
Vacation prize promotions offering a fabulous vacation for an attractive price. But the cruise ship looks more like a tug boat and the hotel is shabby, and it costs more money for an upgrade.