The rise of the Internet has also given rise to new schemes to deceive people. Hoaxes on the Internet may be designed to trick people into sending money, credit card information, personal data, and more. Computer users need to be wary of the email they receive, especially when it asks for personal information or passwords and money. Below are some tips for protecting yourself against Internet hoaxes:
- 1. Trust your instincts. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.
- 2. Check the company's phone number and physical address. If they don't provide it, beware.
- 3. Always ask for and check customer references.
- 4. Call that state's secretary of state and ask if the company is incorporated with them and if it has a current annual report on file.
- 5. Check with the state's Attorney General's Office for any complaints filed against the company.
- 6. Check with the National Fraud Information Center at: www.fraud.org or 1-800-876-7060.
- 7. Ask for information about the return policy.
- 8. Don't allow yourself to be pressured into doing something without being allowed time to think about it.
- 9. Use a credit card to pay, but be careful about giving out your credit card number. Of there's a problem, the credit card company may "charge back" your purchase to the vendor and give you a credit.
- 10. Don't respond to bulk emails that aren't addressed to you personally.
- 11. Save a printed copy of the complete email offer you receive in case you need the information later.
- 12. Beware of offers using an anonymous email address.
- 13. Stay away from pyramid schemes. Pyramid schemes ask you to send money to others, who then send money to others, and so on.
- 14. Beware of email that says you've won a prize. If it asks you to pay something to get the prize, always refuse the prize.
Last year, Nigerian Letter Scams constituted the third biggest consumer fraud on the Internet, trailing auctions and the sale of merchandise, according to the National Consumer League. They typically claim to need your distant involvement in some illegal, money-laundering proposal. They will want to get the money out of Nigeria or other West African country by using you as a middleman "who will benefit greatly from your assistance and cooperation". Upon receipt of the requested documents, you are asked to transfer money to pay for newly-discovered transfer taxes and contract fees demanded by the Central Bank of Nigeria and fees for the attorneys acting on your behalf, if you choose not to come there in person. Either initially or eventually you must provide further fees and payments, usually by wire transfer, for various taxes and expenses to compete the deal. The are increasing reports of individuals being held for ransom after first being lured overseas with the promise of culminating these exceptional business transactions.