The Top Ten Net con tricks

If you're not stupid or greedy you'll be fine

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The US Federal Trade Commission has launched a crackdown on Internet con merchants. This means it has posted a list of the top ten online rip-off tricks and suggestions on how to avoid being taken in.

The advice is basically: Don't be stupid. Don't be greedy. Don't be stupid and greedy. If it looks too good to be true, it is too good to be true. And read the small print.

The FTC also suggests you challenge anything you are unhappy with. The problem is that few con sites leave you with a way of getting in touch with them. So if there's no phone number or address on a site, stay well clear. If the address is some remote island known for offering tax free shelter to criminals and porn merchants, I'd stay well clear as well.

Most online scams are variants of ancient con jobs re-invented for the Internet. But the FTC site is a wake-up call to anyone feeling aggrieved with their enormous phone bill, after they'd sat with their trousers round their ankles expecting a bit of free left-handed-mouse action. Or, for people who didn't become very wealthy after shelling out a few hundred dollars for the lazy man's guide to getting rich.

The FTC's Top 10 Internet con jobs can be found here.

Internet Auctions

The Con After sending their money, consumers say they've received an item which is less valuable than promised, or, worse yet, nothing at all.

FTC advice When bidding through an Internet auction, particularly for a valuable item, check out the seller and insist on paying with a credit card or using an escrow service.

International Modem Dialing

The Con Get free access to adult material and pornography by downloading a "viewer" or "dialer". Then pay exorbitant long-distance charges on their phone bill. Through the dialer, their modem is disconnected, then reconnected to the Internet through an international long-distance number.

FTC advice Don't download any program to access a so-called "free" service without reading all the disclosures carefully for cost information. Just as important, read your phone bill carefully and challenge any charges you didn't authorise or don't understand.

Internet Access Services

The Con You're offered free money, simply for cashing a check, but you get trapped into long-term contracts for Internet access or another Web service, with big penalties for cancellation or early termination.

FTC advice Read the small print, idiot (I paraphrase).

Credit Card Fraud

The Con Surf the Internet and view adult images online for free, just for sharing your credit card number to prove you're over 18. A load of stuff you weren't expecting is then charged to your card.

FTC advice Don't be a complete moron. Dispute unauthorised charges on your credit card bill by complaining to the bank that issued the card.

Web Cramming

The Con Get a free custom-designed website for a 30-day trial period, with no obligation to continue. Then get charges on your phone bills or receive a separate invoice, even if you never accepted the offer or agreed to continue the service after the trial period.

FTC advice Review your telephone bills and challenge any charges you don't recognise.

Multilevel Marketing Plans & Pyramids

The Con "Make money through the products and services you sell as well as those sold by the people you recruit into the program." When products or services are sold only to distributors like yourself, there's no way to make money.

FTC advice Avoid plans which require you to recruit distributors, buy expensive inventory or commit to a minimum sales volume.

Travel and Vacation

The Con "Get a luxurious trip with lots of "extras" at a bargain-basement price." But really stay in a total shit-hole, or end up paying for loads of extras if it's a halfway decent holiday.

FTC advice Get references on any travel company you're planning to do business with. Then, get details of the trip in writing, including the cancellation policy, before signing on.

Business Opportunities

The Con "Be your own boss and earn big bucks." It's a crap business idea which will never generate the money promised. And you'll get no support.

FTC advice Talk to other people who started businesses through the same company, get all the promises in writing, and study the proposed contract carefully before signing. Get an attorney or an accountant to take a look at it, too.


The Con Make an initial investment in a day trading system or service and you'll quickly realise huge returns. Or lose a load of money.

FTC advice Check out the promoter with state and federal securities and commodities regulators, and talk to other people who invested through the program.

Health Care Products & Services

The Con "Items not sold through traditional suppliers are proven to cure serious and even fatal health problems." No they won't. Squeezing money out of people by offering a little hope is an ancient con.

FTC advice Consult a health care professional before buying any 'cure-all'.

Related Link

FTC Internet Con Top 10

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