According to the National Consumers League, the amount of money consumers lost in 2001 to fraudulent Internet offers was almost double from the previous year and now exceeds $6 million. Added to the cost of Internet fraud is the $40 billion lost in schemes from telemarketing fraud. Both types of fraud occur when consumers make decisions with little information about the supplier.
Online auctions generate 70 percent of fraudulent transactions at an average loss of $411 per person. "Nigerian money offers," however, are the most costly. The average loss per person is $5,957.
"Nigerian money offers" are also used in telemarketing. The caller requests a bank account number or requires payment by debit card, thus taking money directly from a victim’s bank account. When people willingly give this personal information to a stranger, they have no legal right to challenge the transition if fraud is discovered.
This waste can be prevented. The National Consumers League suggests:
- Know whom you are dealing with. If it is a national company, you can expect they will back their service and products. If you have never heard of the company, don’t buy from them.
- Know the exchange and refund policy and find out how complaints are handled.
- Never give information about your bank account or credit card to anyone you don’t know.
To get more information or to complain, check out the Internet Fraud watch at www.fraud.org
The best way to avoid fraud is to eliminate contact with you. Unwanted e-mail messages, called spam, are annoying at best but become expensive mistakes for too many people. Never respond to a spam message even if you want to tell them to stop contacting you. Use the filtering system of your e-mail provider to reroute and delete spam. Check out these two free services that will help you manage spam at sneakemail.com and spamcop.net.
Adopt the Boulder Pledge, suggested by Roger Ebert, film critic: "Under no circumstances will I ever purchase anything offered to me as the result of an unsolicited e-mail message."
Sign up with www.ColoradoNoCall.com to prevent telemarketers from contacting you. You can call them at 1-888-249-9097. Get your name on the no-contact list before Sept. 30 and telemarketers must cease calling you by Nov. 1.