Beware of the Internet Scams

Schemes look tempting in desperate times

By Matt Bartosik
|  Monday, Mar 9, 2009  |  Updated 10:17 AM CDT
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Beware of the Internet Scams

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Scam artists are hoping people will take the bait in these rough economic times.

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Have you won the Irish lottery, even though you don't remember buying a ticket?

Has a Nigerian prince or British billionaire promised you hundreds of thousands of dollars if you grant him one small favor (that involves your bank account)?

Do you know where to "buy cheap pills online" or to take advantage of a "secret sale on Armani and Gucci"?

One has to wonder who would fall for such ridiculous e-mail scams that normally get sent straight into junk mail folders. But apparently, someone is.  U.S. postal inspectors report that Internet cons are on the rise in this tough economy.

"They take what we call the shotgun approach and just send out hundreds or thousands of e-mails, hoping to find someone to take advantage of," Thomas Brady, inspector-in-charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Chicago, told the Chicago Tribune.

This seems obvious, but apparently it needs repeating:

There is no justifiable reason for anyone to give you a check and ask for money in return.

Several scams involve offering the victim a percentage of a large-sum check.

"You may receive a check and be told to deposit it, take out [a certain amount] as your pay, and wire back the rest for shipping fees and things like that," said Brady. "Later you come to learn the check is bogus."

Popular fake-check schemes, as reported by FakeChecks.org, include:

  • Scammers befriend you and ask you to cash a check or money order as a favor.
  • They want to buy something that you are selling and send a check or money order for more than you're asking.
  • They hire you to work at home and ask you to deposit checks or money orders in your account as part of your job. Sometimes they have you open a new account for the "business", but you're still responsible for any checks that you deposit.
  • They send you a check or money order as an "advance" on the millions that you're going to receive from a sweepstakes, lottery, or inheritance.
  • They offer you a foreign business deal and send you a check or money order as an advance on your profits.

Use some common sense, folks. If an organization or individual really had so much money, they wouldn't need to ask a stranger (from another country) for help. That's what lawyers are for.

Matt Bartosik, editor of Off the Rocks' next issue and "between blogs" blogger, wants to drain his body of toxins through the soles of his feet.

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