Online Buyer's Guide

Protecting Yourself from Internet Fraud

While the growing popularity of e-commerce has generated some brand new scams by con artists, you should also be watchful for the migration to the Internet of scams that have been around for many years. You should be alert to both the old and new varieties of fraud.

FTC's "Operation Top Ten Dot Cons"

Law enforcers from nine countries, five U.S. agencies, and 23 states are participating in a year-long effort targeting the top 10 Internet scams. These scams were culled from the FTC's database of more than 285,000 consumer complaints. The top 10 targeted scams were:

Take action if one of these scams happens to you! The FTC and your ISP want to know and can help you if you are being subject to these fraudulent activities. If you find that your credit card has been involved in a scam, be sure to call and write to your credit card company right away, describing your experience.

SITES TO SEE:
http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2000/10/topten.htm
Internet Fraud Watch
http://www.fraud.org/ or call 1-800-876-7060.

Travel Scams

Although there are many wonderful travel deals available online, occasionally looking for a travel bargain online can introduce you to fraud. Travel scams are increasingly common in the form of pyramid schemes, vouchers sold through spam, online contests, and offers of frequent flier miles on auction sites. Some of the most common travel-related scams include:

The best defense against fraud is knowledge and prevention. Here are some recommendations to help you identify and protect yourself against fraud.

Many Organizations and Laws Are On Your Side

The best defense against fraud is education. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently published a report describing common scams and what law enforcement agencies are doing to combat Internet crime. The complete report is available for free on the FTC web site (see below). Copies can also be obtained by calling the FTC at 1-877-382-4357.

It's a good idea to know what sorts of problems should be reported to local law enforcement or regulatory agencies, and what sorts of problems you might be able to resolve in Small Claims Court.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is empowered to investigate a company if it sees a pattern of possible violations. It's a good idea to file a complaint with the FTC if you are dissatisfied with the way an online merchant does business. The FTC's web site provides online complaint forms.

Some things about online shopping are unique to the Internet, but the rules that govern fair business practices still apply. People should promptly report any credit card abuse to the card-issuing bank in writing, by registered mail. It's also a good idea to know what sorts of problems should be reported to local law enforcement or regulatory agencies, and what sorts of problems you might be able to resolve in Small Claims Court. And if you are contemplating the sale or barter of items, don't forget that you are responsibly for complying with all applicable laws and regulations.

The following is a partial list of the rules and regulations that protect the public if the businesses are located in the United States. Buyers have more limited recourse for resolving complaints or problems with international orders.

SITES TO SEE:
http://www.ftc.gov/
The federal government's consumer protection portal
http://www.consumer.gov/Tech.htm
A comprehensive list of consumer rights enforced by federal agencies
http://www.consumer.gov/

We hope this guide has helped prepare you to be an educated online shopper. This guide is located online at: http://www.netaction.org/shoppers/

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