Police educate students on Internet scams

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    By Kisha Wilson

    As Internet scams increase, the Provo FBI bureau and BYU police are educating students on how to avoid being victims for thieves and opportunists.

    Investigators warn that one of the ways to spot a scam is in the presentation.

    Students should avoid Internet ads that claim outlandish cures, results or investments that promise big returns.

    Internet “special offers” that are only available for a “limited time” which give discounts only if ordered “today” should also be avoided.

    FBI agents and BYU police say students need to realize the Internet is an easy mark for e-mail scams because it is easier and cheaper to set up.

    Internet scams are a growing trend that affect many students who own computers or have Internet access.

    “If the scams were legitimate, they wouldn”t have to force it on people,” FBI Special Agent John McDonald said. “When the scammers want a commitment quickly, a red flag should go up in your mind that it”s a fraud.”

    One of the most clear-cut ways to identify an Internet scam is the lack of a mailing address, no voice telephone number and no name.

    Scam investigators said students should also watch out for Internet companies that have “post office” boxes because some are fraudulent.

    The less information available about an Internet company, the more it indicates that the scammers do not want to be found.

    “These people have great imaginations,” said Lt. Greg Barber, BYU Police.

    “The Internet has made it really great for them because it”s cheap and easy to set up,” McDonald said. “Although we can subpoena the Internet provider, some offer free access to their servers, so tracking these con artists is nearly impossible.”

    Another way to recognize illegitimate Internet companies is when a caller asks for personal information, a credit card number or asks to fax a check.

    These demands for immediate cash often identify “break-out” operations.

    Break-out operations happen when the scammer is found out and the fraudulent company disappears within hours. This is particularly true of those who offer only a fax number and e-mail address.

    “If someone calls you and wants you to divulge personal information, do not give out your information,” Barber said. “Get the person”s name and contact their company personally or by mail to find out if the representation is legitimate.”

    Investigators warn that con artists will continually allude to the “great potential for entrepreneurs” on the Internet and brag about the millions of customers who have already taken advantage of the products.

    But if the consumer hasn”t seen a product or seen the results, then they are only selling lies, or it may be an illegal pyramid scheme.

    “Unfortunately, my friend back home forked over $100 to this supposed Internet insurance company that was supposed to have really good rates,” said Sarah Davis, 21, a junior from Albany, N.Y. “But come to find out, it was an Internet scam.”

    The best way to pick up on an Internet scam is to trust one”s instincts and remember, “If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is,” Barber said.

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