Fraud on the Internet
Internet scams are fast on the rise and while anyone can be tricked, Internet scams run against seniors are on the rise faster than most other groups.
The growth of Internet scams in part has to do with the incredible rate of growth of seniors on the Internet. According to research by AARP, senior citizens are the fastest growing segment of the Internet community. Add this to the fact that the boomers of the 40's will be making the senior population the fastest growing age group, and Internet scammers have a very large target.
Seniors say that keeping in touch with others through email remains the top reason for using the Internet. But seniors increasingly are turning to their computers to shop and conduct business. Additionally, seniors hitting age 65 today have often had to learn to use the computer and the Internet as a part of their job function and unlike their older cousins who retired 10 years ago, they will carry this knowledge and use into retirement.
Internet scam types
When it comes to Internet scams, seniors aren't alone here. Every age group and every economic class can be taken advantage of. There are many such scams but here are just a few:
Spam is probably the most annoying of all Internet occurrences unless you suffer from popup bugs on your computer. Spammers attempt to sell you everything from body part enhancers, to medications, to cheap insurance, to home mortgages, to office supplies, and the list goes on and on.
Federal and state legislatures have passed much legislation that attempts to close down the spammers but without much luck. There are too many reasons for this to go into here, but laws will never be effective in managing or stopping spam.
The only thing that stops spammers is a lack of ability to derive an income from their spam. As long as there are some that buy what the spammer sells, the spam will continue. And if you buy once, you stand to see your spam increase 10 fold. You've been identified as a sucker for spam and they will never let you go.
So even if you see something that you really want that is offered in a spam email, just say "no". Do a search for it and buy it from a different site if you want, but don't reward the spammer for his illegal activity by buying what he is selling. Another reason to not do this is that you stand good chances of getting an inferior product or not receiving anything at all. Spammers must move around an awful lot and as such, their websites are here today and gone tomorrow.
Spammers are also already breaking the law and in some cases, they are breaking many very serious laws. Prescription sellers that spam, often do so illegally and the trouble they could get into for not sending you your order is nothing compared to the trouble they could be in for selling drugs without a license or a legitimate prescription.
Internet password scams
If you are on the Internet, you need passwords at least to log onto your account. If you do much of anything else like online banking or have a web-based email account, you also need passwords.
Understand that it's just a matter of time until you get an email that looks like it is coming from a bank, EBay or some other well known company, asking you to either enter your login identification or click a link taking you to a page where you do the same. It is almost always accompanied with some sort of threat of terrible consequences like losing your account or it costing you money if you don't act now.
These email and the sites that you go to look remarkably like those that they are impersonating, giving you the feeling that you are communicating with the legitimate business rather than the fraud.
No reputable company asks you for your login ID in an email and they simply do not lose your password information. It doesn't happen. If you are asked for this information anywhere, anytime, except to log into your account on the site, you are being scammed.
Avoid this scam by not replying to such emails and do not even bother to click on the link to go to the site. Doing so can possibly trigger a small program that will let the scammer know more about you and that you were interested in his email. Giving away your login information is dangerous business.
Internet auction scams
Internet auctions are relatively safe with a reported less than 1% of transactions ever resulting in a complaint according to the FTC. While not all scams are reported, there are also a fair number of cases that the complaint was not justified either. Regardless, the number is quite small. But you can still take precautions to minimize your risk online as well.
- Use a secure browser - Most browsers are free these days, but not all are safe for conducting transactions online. Internet Explorer, available from Microsoft online is by far the most popular browser but Netscape also has it's raving fans. Both companies offer free browsers that you can download and stay up to date with plugins and security features. It is however, important that you keep your browser updated. Older versions of browsers can have incredible security flaws that allow devious scammers to cause problems
- Read and understand the refund and shipping policies - This is one of the most overlooked pieces of information and one that causes the most trouble. For the most part, they can say anything they want here and by clicking the "BUY" button, you are saying that you agree to it. Look the site over completely to see if there are any other disclosures or disclaimers that might affect your purchase.
- Keep your personal information private. Don't disclose any of your personal information in an email. Email is not safe at all, even if the other party claims it is. Email gets forwarded and most people don't think twice about sharing their computer with your email on it with a coworker.
- Keep records of your online transactions and check your e-mail - Sometimes people forget to check their email or only do so every week or two. If the merchant has sent you important email regarding your purchase and you are not checking email, you will obviously not be able to respond.
- Review your monthly credit card and bank statements - This is very important to make sure that nobody is using your credit cards without authorization. Notify your credit or debit card issuer immediately if your credit, debit card or checkbook is lost or stolen, or if you suspect someone is using your accounts without your permission.
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