Our View: Fraud as part of typical day
Craig — So, it’s your typical day.
You go to work. You go home.
And if you’re a typical person, more than likely you get on a computer during your typical day and check your e-mail.
Unfortunately, there is a certain type of e-mail that has become too typical.
“Hello,” it reads.
“My name is Mrs. Fillintheblank. I am 59 years old and was diagnosed for cancer about two years ago. I will be going in for an operation, and I pray that I survive the operation. I have decided to WILL/donate the sum of $10.5 million to you for the good work of the Lord, and to help the motherless, less privileged and also for the assistance of the widows.”
Other than the name of the person, this is a real e-mail. At this point, you’re an e-mail away from getting $10.5 million dollars. It seems as if it’s almost too good to be true.
And that’s because it is.
This, along with the e-mails about some guy leaving a business and wanting to move the money to you, are nothing more than a scam to try and attain money and/or personal information from you.
Such e-mails are called “advance fee schemes,” where a person offers you money, but to get the large amount of cash, you have to give money – such as a finder’s fee – first to free up those assets. After the finder’s fee is paid, the person who promised you the money is either nowhere to be found, or used a contract that made it legal to take your money for nothing in return.
Such schemes are only limited by the con artists’ imagination, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Web site.
For many, however, such scams are simply a click of the button to move the unwanted e-mail into the trash. But for others, these scams work (they have to, or they wouldn’t be part of your typical day).
Such fraud cases are typically associated with senior citizens, but Internet fraud, as a whole, has a younger victim range.
In Colorado, nearly 70 percent of all Internet fraud in 2006 occurred to residents ages 20 to 50, with the highest percentage, 24.9 percent, age group being adults 30 to 39 years old, according to IC3’s 2006 Internet Crime Report. Internet fraud losses for the state in 2006 exceeded $5.1 million, with the highest loss at more than $98,600. Residents older than 60 account for 8.9 percent of fraud cases.
And it happens here, too.
Because fraud statistics are all kept in one category, Craig Chief of Police Walt Vanatta couldn’t give exact numbers on the amount of Internet fraud that happens in town. But he did say it is a growing concern.
“Oh yeah, it’s a problem,” he said. “We were just talking about changing our Web page about to add Internet fraud and safety issues.”
One scam he’s seen is when someone e-mails you to verify an account, and when you go to that page, it asks for your social security number. This is a big no-no, he said.
Although verification and advance fee schemes are prevalent, they are not the scariest part of the typical day.
E-mails offering you money are not the most common type of Internet fraud.
Online auctions rank the highest, accounting for nearly 50 percent of all complaints, according to the FBI.
Some basic rules of thumb to avoid fraud on the Internet include:
• Before you release any information, know who you are dealing with.
• If it sounds too good to be true, more than likely, it is.
• If it’s an online auction, learn about the seller, and learn about the auction site if possible. If a business is involved, check with the Better Business Bureau where the seller is located.
• There is virtually no reason to give out a Social Security number or drivers license number during such transactions.
Because the reality is this: We now are forced to live in a time where part of our typical day is being aware of the typical and atypical scams.
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