Residents warned against falling for Web-based scams

Craig Police are urging citizens to be aware of a new identity-theft scam perpetrated on the World Wide Web.

It arrives as seemingly innocuous email and advises recipients that their "PayPal" account is about to expire. It then asks the user provide account information to "update" their "personal profile," according to a police report.

The information can then be used to steal one's identity and make unauthorized purchases.

PayPal is a legitimate Internet company that processes transactions for such online giants as eBay. Customers on eBay can set up a PayPal account and use it as an online business account to participate in auctions. PayPal reports that more than 42,000 Web sites use its services.

Craig Police Sgt. Bill Leonard called the scammers "pretty stupid," because they sent a copy of it to Craig Police.

However, Craig residents have been taken by Internet scams, and some individuals have been duped on several occasions, Leonard said.

"What's scary is how many people will give out personal information," Leonard said.

Investigations of frauds, such as the PayPal scam, usually are long and fruitless.

"Chances of getting restitution are slim to none," Leonard said.

But he admits that the scams wouldn't persist if they didn't work.

Leonard advises residents who receive unsolicited email or telephone calls requesting personal information that the call is "most likely one of these scams."

According to PayPal's Web site, www.paypal.com, "Emails from PayPal will address you by your first and last name or the business name associated with your PayPal account. We will not send an email with the greeting 'Dear PayPal User' or 'Dear PayPal Member.'"

"We will never ask you to enter your password or financial information in an email or send such information in an email," according to PayPal's "Security Tips" page.

Any time users enter personal information at a Web site, they should be sure they are at the intended site. Users can look at the address bar of their browser to make sure the site is paypal.com and not paypall.com, for instance. Another indication of security is that the address begins with "https" rather than simply "http." The "s" refers to a "secure," or encrypted Internet protocol, which can prevent the data from being captured by a third-party while in transit.

Most legitimate Web sites have pages that outline their policies. Users can refer to these pages to verify an email's validity. Other sites are dedicated to uncovering and publicizing scams. One such well-know site, used as a source for New York Times articles about Internet fraud is called "Internet Scambusters." It's Web address is www.scambusters.org.

Scambusters discusses numerous hoaxes and scams, including PayPal and eBay scams. It even boasts a "scam check station," where users can research Internet scams and find tips for avoiding them.

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or jbrowning@craigdailypress.com

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