Finance LIFESTYLE  >  Avoiding Internet Scams, Part 1

Avoiding Internet Scams, Part 1

Avoiding Internet Scams, Part 1; internet scams in middle age; internet use over 50
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BY KITT WALSH

I recently turned to Craigslist to sell some furniture that takes up too much space in my tiny house and almost immediately got a text from a businessman saying he wanted to buy a table, sight unseen. He was traveling and would send extra money, via a certified check, for me to hold the table as he wanted to sell it in his shop and didn’t want to lose the item. Since I wasn’t releasing the table to him and since it was a certified check that would have to clear my account before I gave over the item, it seemed like a safe idea to me.

Wrong. I was almost a victim of a scam and I am normally no pushover.

The buyer soon texted that his “secretary” had inadvertently sent me an overpayment and would I cash the check and return the difference? The check arrived and was made for $800 above the purchase price of the table! The term “secretary” (as opposed to administrative assistant) and the high amount, made me turn to the internet to do a little research.

It turns out, the check would have cleared my account; I would have refunded the extra money back to him ; and then days, maybe weeks later, that check would have bounced and been declared fraudulent. It was a certified check but drawn on a bank’s branch that did not exist and signed by a person for whom there was no information at all. I would have been out all the money. Usually this scam is for bigger ticket items, like cars, but any port in a storm when it comes to internet scams these days.

Here are some scams to look out for:

Disaster Relief: These scams prey on the fact that we are empathetic people who want to help others and scammers set up fake charity sites to take advantage of our kindness. When a request for a donation reaches you via email and it isn’t from one of the charities with which you regularly deal, don’t click on any links and don’t give out your credit card or bank info. It’s best if you go to the charitiy’s website yourself to make the donation.

Travel: You are offered a chance to go somewhere fabulous–say Tahiti–for a ridiculously low far or even for free, but you have to call the company that day or the offer expires. You’ll find that either the hotel you must stay in is very high priced or that the hotel rates and other “fees” are hidden until you sign up. Or worse, that you get nothing at all for any money you put up. At best you will have to sit through a time-share pitch at the destination, at worst, you will have given the crooks a credit card and can’t get a hold of anyone to either give you a refund or cancel your “subscription” or time-share reservation.

Job Hunting:  If you’ve been searching for a job even on legitimate employment sites, you are like honey to the bees for scammers. You may be offered a job to be a “financial” or “account rep” for an overseas company due to the “fact” that they can’t accept money from US-based customers. If you will perform this service for them, you’ll get a commission (5-15%) and all you need do is give the company all your bank account information so you can get paid, opening the door wide for them to clear out your bank account. Or they may send fake checks, like that one in my experience, for you to cash and refund the difference.

Chain Letters: An oldie but a goodie and, as PT Barnum said, “there is a sucker born very minute” or at least every generation. An email will be sent to you with a list of names and you are asked to send a small amount of money ($5 or $10) to the person whose name is at the top of the list. You’re supposed to put your name at the bottom of the list and forward the list on to a number of other people. Theoretically, as more people join the chain, the money should pour into you as your name rises to the top, right? Nope. The top name will always be the creator of the list (parent of the scam) and also, if you participate in the chain mail, you are participating in an illegal fraud!

Hesitate a long second (or more) over that keyboard before you hit “send” and jeopardize your finances by falling for a scam. It never hurts to be cautious. More next time on how to guard yourself against internet scams.

 

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