CONSUMER ALERT: Tips for avoiding Internet fraud
POSTED: Saturday, September 14, 2013 - 1:00pm
UPDATED: Saturday, September 14, 2013 - 4:32pm
LOUISIANA — The Internet is an amazing tool. But criminals are recognizing the vast potential of cyberspace. Many of the same scams or frauds that for years have been conducted by mail or phone can now be found on the Internet.
The following is a list of recommendations for safe Internet use:
• Do business with those you know and trust. Be sure you know who the company or person is and where it is physically located. Businesses operating in cyberspace may be in another part of the country or in another part of the world. Resolving problems with someone unfamiliar can be more complicated in long distance or cross border transactions.
• Understand the offer. Look carefully at the information about the products or services offered, and ask for more information, if needed. A legitimate business will be glad to provide it; a fraudulent telemarketer won’t. Be sure you know what is being sold, the total price, the delivery date, the return and cancellation policy, and the terms of any guarantee. The federal telephone and mail order rule, which also covers orders by computer, requires goods or services to be delivered by the promised time or, if none was stated, within thirty days. Print out the information so that you have documentation.
• Check out the company’s or individual’s track record. Ask your state or local consumer protection agency if the business has to be licensed or registered, and check to see if it is. Call to check for complaint records with consumer agencies and the Better Business Bureau in your area. But keep in mind that fraud artists can appear and disappear quickly, especially in cyberspace, so lack of a complaint record is no guarantee of legitimacy.
• Never give your bank account numbers, credit card numbers or other personal information to anyone you don’t know or haven’t checked out. And don’t provide information that isn’t necessary to make a purchase. Even with partial information, con artists can make unauthorized charges or take money from your account. If you have a choice between using your credit card and mailing cash, check, or money order, it is recommended to use a credit card. You can always dispute fraudulent credit card charges, but you can’t get cash back.
• Take your time. While there may be time limits for special offers, high pressure sales tactics are often danger signs of fraud.
• Don’t judge reliability by how nice or flashy a web site may seem. Anyone can create, register, and promote a web site; it’s relatively easy and inexpensive. And just like any other forms of advertising, you can’t assume that someone has screened and approved it.
• Know that people in cyberspace may not always be what they seem. Someone who is sharing a “friendly” tip about a moneymaking scheme or great bargain in a chat room or on a bulletin board may have an ulterior motive: to make money. Sometimes friendly people are crooks!
• Know that unsolicited e mail violates computer etiquette and is often used by con artists. It also violates most agreements for Internet service. Report “spamming,” as unsolicited e mail is called, to your on line or Internet service provider.
• Don’t download programs to see pictures, hear music, or get other features from web sites you’re not familiar with. You could unwittingly download a virus that wipes out your computer files or even hijacks your Internet service, reconnecting you to the Net through an international phone number, resulting in enormous phone charges.