Internet ScamBuster's Top 10 Scams for 2001: Herbal viagra and much more
First, Happy New Year! We hope 2002 is a truly exceptional year for you in every way. And a big welcome to all our new subscribers.
At the end of last year, a reporter from the Today show called and asked us for the top scams for 2001.
That got us thinking...
We realized that you -- our subscribers -- might also like to know our "Top 10 Scams of 2001."
So, that's how we'll start off this year.
A word of warning, so to speak. These aren't ranked by dollars lost or people scammed. There's nothing scientific about the list. It's just the ten scams that we find the most disturbing.
Given the number of different scams that we see every year, this is a pretty tough list for us to put together. We've tried to soften it with a bit of humor, but please, don't let that make these scams seem any less serious than they really are.
Some of these scams are very dangerous.
You'll note that most of these involve spam. There's a reason for that. The mentality of a spammer is exactly the same kind of mindset as a con artist.
As we always say: "If it's spam, it's scam."
So, let's get started. Here are...
Top 10 Scams for 2001
10. Herbal Viagra
This is really a whole category of scams, relating to the sale of medical or "alternative" medical treatments online. Usually using spam to get to the "customer."
If you're lucky, these products will do nothing at all. Some of them are seriously dangerous by themselves. They promise cures for life threatening illnesses, causing those who buy the promise to delay proper medical treatment, sometimes past the point where it would have helped.
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before buying into any of these nostrums. It'll save you a lot of headaches and heartache later.
Folks, consider this: If you wouldn't trust a spammer to handle your money, why would you take medical advice from them???
9. Internet Investigator
"Be the first kid on your block to know all the dirty secrets your neighbors are hiding! Find out what your prospective mate has hidden in his past! Find the lost city of Atlantis! Find your lost remote!"
This one is more an annoyance than a real problem. It serves as a great example of the pure hype that you should watch out for in online advertising.
Filled with promises of secret knowledge that's not available to anyone else, it delivers nothing more than a list of places you can pay to search for information. It's the perfect example of a pitch that's not quite a scam -- but clearly misleads in its promise.
Ask yourself this: If this stuff was as easy as the ads make it out to be, wouldn't you see these "secret techniques" in magazines and on TV?
8. Pump and Dump
You've probably gotten these. The subject line or first part of the email says that this is "Highly confidential information."
This scam is based on touting "advance information" on specific stocks in an attempt to drive up the price past its true worth, so the promoters can sell at the higher price.
They pump it up, and then dump it. Hence the name.
This is generally illegal. And certainly a bad way to get investment advice...
Ask yourself: If it's so confidential, why are they spamming it to millions of people?
7. Credit Scams
There are all sorts of these that prey on the desires of people to repair or establish credit.
The worst are the alleged credit repair services. They promise to help you to remove accurate but negative information from your credit record, or to show you how to get a federal Employer ID Number, usually in very questionable fashion.
Not only do these techniques not work, they can get you in deep trouble for committing fraud.
You're not going to fix your credit while you're in jail.
As far as easy credit, guaranteed approval credit cards, and home equity loans that don't require equity in your home... forget it.
Easy credit is very expensive, with rates far over the norm. "Services" selling "access to the lenders that will approve your loan" don't guarantee anything. You're going to have to go through the same approval process with these lenders as with your local bank.
This one should be obvious: Cheap money? From a BANK???
6. Auction Antics
You can get a lot of terrific deals through online auctions, but you need to be careful. Before buying anything that seems too cheap, or that shouldn't be on an auction site at all, ask questions.
Look at the seller's feedback rating and comments. You'll get a lot of clues from that. Check the retail price of the merchandise. If it's new merchandise, you can probably expect to pay ½ to ⅔ of retail, even at auction.
Avoid sellers with email addresses at free services like Hotmail or Yahoo unless they have really extensive positive feedback. And check out some of that feedback to make sure it's real...
Whenever possible, pay with a credit card, and check the merchandise carefully as soon as it comes in. If it's not as represented, or it doesn't arrive, contact your credit card company to correct the problem.
Remember the old story of the fellow who raffled off a brand new Lincoln at a small town carnival? Tickets were $1 each, and everyone figured they had a good chance.
He sold a lot of tickets, and, as promised, he delivered a brand new Lincoln... penny.
For more on auction fraud, you can check out the issue of Internet ScamBusters called "Online Auctions: Deals or Steals.
5. Chain Letters
"Add your name to position X, move the name in position Y to position Z, send 200 copies of this letter to your closest personal friends, and very soon you'll have no personal friends left!"
Don't believe the claims about legitimacy, folks. These things are illegal, immoral, and probably fattening.
Get a good anti-virus program, keep it updated, and keep it running.
Huh? What are viruses doing in the ranks of scams?
They're actually among the more clever of scams, if you think about it. Deceptive subject lines, hidden code that causes you to spread them to your friends, and almost always appealing to the most common desires.
3. Nigerian Fee Scam
This is an oldie, and a real baddie.
The basic line goes like this:
"I represent some high mucky muck who wants to get a lot of suspicious money out of my country, and we need help from you to do it. We'll pay you stupid amounts of cash to be a front person."
The system escalates until you've got money sunk into the scam, and they want you to visit the country in question in person. There have been people who played along with this and never made it home alive.
Originally this was focused through Nigeria, but with recent events, you may hear about Taliban leaders wanting help, or people from other war-torn countries.
Don't respond to these people in any way. People die falling for this one.
For more on this scam, check out our previous article on the Nigerian Scam.
2. Identity Theft
We covered this in our last issue. This is a VERY serious problem.
If you haven't yet read this Identity Theft issue, do so now.
Visit, read it, and be prepared.
1. WTC Scams
The spams relating to the World Trade Center began within an hour of the attacks. They range from appeals for aid to the victims, usually sent through the spammers' web sites, to fake news items concerning reported attacks.
There's nothing funny to be sa
id about these.
Don't pass them along, and don't contribute through any site that doesn't belong to a recognizable charity, such as the Red Cross or the United Way.
You can read more about these scams at: http://www.scambusters.org/Scambusters46.html
When you consider doing any sort of business online, look over this list and see if the appeal sounds like one or more of these scams. If so, check it out carefully before sending money.
Most online businesses are run by honest folks and are quite safe. Just use a little common sense and caution, and you should be fine.
On a personal note, we'd like to take a moment to wish you and yours a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.
Thanks for letting us share your online experience. We hope ScamBusters has been of help to you, and that we can continue to help you protect yourself for many years to come.
Audri and Jim Lanford