Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Two Best Defenses against Online Fraud: Caution and Credit Computers for the Rest of Us

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Two Best Defenses against Online Fraud: Caution and Credit Computers for the Rest of Us

Article excerpt

Whoa, there, cyber-shopper! Before making that online purchase, take a few moments to defend yourself against potential fraud. Do you know the seller? Have you checked out the offer? Unfortunately, as Internet use booms, so too do reports of Internet fraud.

Internet shopping is probably no more dangerous than responding to a telemarketing pitch or a mail-order solicitation. But scammers are beginning to move into cyberspace. Defend yourself with the two rules of online shopping: (1) caveat emptor (buyer beware) and (2) use your credit card.

I know, I know. Everyone warns against using plastic online. But fraud watchers are finding that consumers take this advice too literally. The Internet Fraud Watch, a project of the National Consumers League in Washington, reports that more than 60 percent of victims are paying with cash, check, or money orders. That's unwise. Once that money is in the hands of a scam operator, it is extremely difficult to get back, says Hugh Stevenson, assistant director of marketing practices at the Federal Trade Commission. At least credit cards offer some protections in case your merchandise never arrives or arrives damaged. If you're wary of giving credit-card data online, legitimate businesses should always offer an alternative: a phone number or address. If you run into a suspicious offer, check out the Internet Fraud Watch (www.fraud.org/ifw.htm) for tips on what to look for. If you're defrauded, file a complaint online. The Consumers League says it sends those complaints daily to more than 150 law-enforcement agencies in the United States and Canada. Reports are coming in at triple the monthly rate of last year. Since the Internet watch was launched only in March 1996, the increase may be due in part to the campaign being better known. Still, consumers should be careful, especially of the Top 10 online scams reported to the league. …

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