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Internet Scams 101 -- Stealing Credit Information

Trent Steele

Because my business takes me all over the Internet, I have the dubious honor of being on three e-mail sucker lists at one e-mail address and one more at another address.

Which is good, because all three at the one address send me the same warnings: my eBay account has been frozen, ditto my PayPal, and an amazing variety of banks need me to update my records.

These people are all pretending to be someone we trust: a bank, PayPal, eBay. And when we are suckered into their setup, they empty our bank accounts and run up thousands of dollars on our credit cards.

Microsoft, Yahoo, and other Internet organizations are working on systems that will let us know whether the sender is REALLY who they say they are. When this comes online, it will help get rid of some of the worst black hats, though other types of scam may not be affected.

These "big pretenders" are vicious. Yet, in a situation where I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, I laugh. And warn other people so they can laugh at them too, rather than be sucked into their scams.

Due to these scammers, I look forward to my e-mail. As I delete item after item, I enjoy the fertility of their imaginations. One guy even has a sense of humor. (I think it’s a guy.) Today his name is Chattiest Q. Ulcerates. Yesterday he was Infiltrated G. Perseverance (giving a nice clue to his personality), and before that he was Twists V. Haemorrhaging (spelled correctly and another personality clue). I have no intention of clicking on anything he sends, but I smile as I delete him into oblivion.

These jokers are all serious about one thing: they want to steal your bank account number, social security number, and/or credit card information, and if one attempt doesn’t work, they’ll try another.

• Anti-scam rule 1: Scammers pretending to be someone they are not cannot harm you if you delete their e-mails without clicking on any of the things they want you to click on.

Lately I’ve been getting official looking e-mails that appear to be from banks. They have beautiful logos and extremely official looking forms. One supposedly from Washington Mutual Security begins, “WAMU is committed to maintaining a safe environment for its community of buyers and sellers. To protect the security of your account, WAMU employs some of the most advanced security systems in the world and our anti-fraud teams regularly screen the WAMU system for unusual activity.”

Note the emphasis on safety and security. They even have an anti-fraud team! In order to “secure my account” I’m supposed to click on a link and supply information -- information which will lead them from my pretend account with them to my real account, which they will then kindly clean out for me.

• Anti-scam rule 2: Your bank does not need you to “confirm” your account number, your credit card numbers, or your social security number. It already has all the information it needs. As for some official sounding bank you’ve never heard of -- sheesh!

• Anti-scam rule 3: Give your credit information online only when you have gone to a legitimate website and are in the process of purchasing something from it. People who buy things from my website, http://www.foodandfiction.com/, a very legitimate site, as part of the purchasing process are taken to a safe place online, so they can give their credit card information directly to the credit card company with whom I have a legal contract.

As the owner of the site, I NEVER SEE THE CREDIT CARD NUMBERS! All the credit card company gives me is the name and address of the person to whom I should mail the merchandise, what they ordered, and how much they paid. And that is the way all legitimate online merchants deal with your credit card information. We say your information is safe, and it is.

Keep these simple steps in mind -- and help yourself steer clear of the many, many online scams that abound. And remember, keep smiling and spread the word!

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Find the best recipe, food gift, and healthy dieting sites in Janette Blackwell’s Delightful Food Directory, http://www.delightfulfood.com/ 

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