Students fall for fake Internet merchants, check scams

via Students fall for fake Internet merchants, check scams, clarionledger.com, 9/16/2015

PDF: The_Clarion-Ledger_State_20150917_B001_1

With the halls of our schools filled with eager young minds ready to absorb all that knowledge (I’m an optimist, OK?), they are also likely to fall victim to scammers.

According to some statistics recently released by fraud.org (operated by the National Consumers League or NCL), students are falling for promises of nonexistent or subpar online merchandise, schemes sending them checks to cash (which turn out to be forged) and other devious schemes.

The NCL statistics covered complaints filed the past 12 months. Almost three-quarters (71.9 percent) of complaints focused on dubious Internet merchandise schemes (48.7 percent) and fake check scams (23.2 percent). Among the most common complaints was that e-commerce sites advertised the availability of popular items — such as trendy athletic apparel — only to take money and never deliver (or worse yet, to serve as an entry point for identity theft).

The Internet merchandise scam category covers a wide variety of schemes designed to separate young people from their money, particularly for iPhones and game consoles. “Many complaints also focus on scams involving the sale of clothing, particular dubious online sneaker sales websites,” fraud.org advises. “Vehicle and pet sales were also popular sources of complaints. Craigslist was frequently mentioned as the venue where younger consumers first spotted “deals” that turned out to be fraud.”

The site cautions young people to be careful on Craigslist, which has proven to be fertile ground for all types of scammers. Chief among these were fake check scams or phony job listings, including “mystery shopper” jobs. Also mentioned was care.com, a popular site which links parents or caregivers to potential sitters for kids or the elderly, but can also harbor scammers waiting to pounce on young people eager to earn some baby-sitting money.

Here are some of fraud.org’s recommendations:

Do a price-check for similar merchandise before trusting an unknown online retailer, especially one advertising on Craigslist. If the price listed is far below traditional online retailers (think Amazon, Best Buy, Zappos) for a piece of popular merchandise (such as wireless phones, game consoles, sneakers, or designer clothing), the “deal” could easily be a scam.

When looking for a job, a request to cash a check in a personal account is a huge red flag. Legitimate employers will want you to go through an interview process and check your references before entrusting you with a check worth hundreds or thousands of dollars. If your “boss” wants you to deposit a check and wire a portion back to her or someone else, it’s almost certainly a scam.

If you’re a parent of a teenager, experts say the best time to have “the talk” with your teen (no, not that one; the other one, about being safe on the Internet) is before they are actually exposed to it; the second best time is today. E-commerce is a virtual “wild, wild West,” a world in which borders are meaningless and thieves can lurk around every corner. Every day, Mississippians lose their hard-earned dollars to scammers. Our kids need to know the risks, and how to conduct themselves safely.

Onguardonline.gov is a great resource, which will educate you about what you need to know to have that talk with them.

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