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Beware of online scams promising easy money

Michael Foote
Fort Richardson Staff Judge Advocate’s office

Beware of online scams promising easy moneyP.T. Barnum has been credited with saying, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” and there are people out there who will attempt to exploit that opinion at a moment’s notice.

More than half of the homes in America now have at least one computer connected to the Internet, which creates an amazing opportunity for those inclined to cheat everyday people out of their hard-earned money. There are loads of Internet scams out there just waiting to fleece those who are easily misled into believing they have found an opportunity to strike it rich.

With the huge number of computers in homes, scam artists only have to convince 1 percent of computer users to buy into a “get rich now” scam to make a boatload of money.

Accordingly, we find ourselves bombarded every day with e-mail offers or pop-up ads touting opportunities to “make millions” by taking a few simple steps. These include sending money to someone to help you establish a “new and exciting” career or giving someone your bank account information so they can transfer secret money into your account.

This week alone, I have had the good fortune to win a European lottery worth 27 million dollars (if I will pay the tax in advance) and have been contacted by a former high-up muckety-muck in the Nigerian government who would like to share millions of dollars with me he absconded with in the last government overthrow (if I would just give him some personal bank account information). I guess I can retire next week since I have suddenly become independently wealthy.

That then leads us to the question of how we can protect ourselves. The answers are to simply understand there is no such thing as a free lunch and to let common sense prevail. If an offer seems too good to be true, then it generally is.

You should never give out any personal information to an unknown source. Protect your identity at all costs. Identity thieves and computer scammers use your personal information to either establish credit in your name or to drain your accounts with promises of riches to come. No respectable employment service will charge you money to post your resume with their site or to send you an information packet about establishing yourself in a “new and exciting” career field.

Steer clear of such offers and delete e-mail messages from people asking for personal information or money or those offering unbelievable get-rich-quick schemes. The only person getting rich is the one sending the e-mails and getting responses.

If you would like more information about Internet scams or how to fight identity theft, go online to www.scambusters.org, www.ftc.gov/bcp/index.shtml or www.usarak.army.mil/jag/or call your Legal Assistance office at 384-0371 for Fort Richardson or 353-6534 for Fort Wainwright.