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The Almighty Buck

FTC Names Top-10 "Dot-Con" Types 42

stereoroid writes "InfoWorld has an article describing how the US Federal Trade Commission" has listed the "Top 10 Types" of "Dot-Con" scam. The main web page does not name names, but the PDFs downloadable from there certainly do - hundreds of names. Then there's the list of last month's actions, including MS WebTV's "Deceptive Advertising Claims". "
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FTC Names Top-10 "Dot-Con" Types

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  • The worst scam is that /. provides links to "useful information" that are in reality 404. End the /. conspiracy!
  • Okay, maybe the redial thing is a legit scam for people who don't understand computers, but these are just the same cons that get perpetrated on people everyday in the non-internet world.

    Multi-level marketing, credit card fraud, paying for something and getting either cheap crap or nothing (this is on the list in four different variations), and bullshit investment advice have all been going on for a long time before computers. People don't need the internet to fall for this stuff.
  • I remember many years ago I set up a "hacker catalog" online e-commerce site(ok, PAGE), claiming to be selling all sorts of things such as red boxes, linemans handsets, and other toll fraud items.

    It was very poorly done, coded in notepad, and the items drawn in Deluxe Paint(This was around late 1995), and I left certain clues such as having its offices in New Tokyo, California. Hell, it was on the U of M's web server!

    Regardless of the ameturish quality of the site, I was getting emails daily asking how to order, since I said I didn't accept credit cards. Mind you, if I said I did accept credit cards via email, I would have been swimming in them.

    It was amazing how many people I fooled.
  • Seems too neat to be true...

    Speaking of urban legend, I heard a good one last week. The guy was given two vials to collect his specimens for a medical examination, and was told to write the name on the labels. The next day he came in with two plastic cans, labelled respectively "Shit" and "Piss".

  • > Some of it, such as MMF chain letters should be forwarded to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service...

    Unfortunately, most of the scams I've seen lately have gotten really good at skirting the various regulations aimed at curbing the old pyramid schemes. For example, by offering a "service" (e.g., sending you "publications" telling you how to "make money fast" on stock market speculation), they gain just enough legitimacy that they can escape US Postal regulations.

    This effort looks like it is trying a slightly different tact. It's also an attempt at creating cooperation between international agencies, since the problem now mirrors the international nature of the Internet.

    --

  • Wooohahahah wipeout [geocities.com]...

  • I was at my dad's house helping him download the system update for BeOS. By default, all downloads get saved in ~/Downloads. So, 8.4 megs later I opened up the download directory and what did I see....5 or 6 copies of dialer.exe. I just played ignorant so as not to embarass my dad too much, who was standing next to the computer.

    He knows that windows programs won't work on his computer, so I don't think he intentionally downloaded the dialers. Those are the web sites probably most scrutinized by the FTC, the ones that subversively install the dialer into your computer and dial out w/o your knowledge.

    Well, needless to say, I washed my hands very soon after updating his system.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I want real news, not anti-Microsoft FUD.

    What are you doing on Slashdot then?

  • What? No mention of ourfirsttime.com [clublove.com]? Nothing on super-ionized structured water [transformacomm.com], laundry balls [syntac.net], or radionic [syntac.net] healing devices? The Nigerian Scam [rica.net] gets nary a bullet? What about the financial reports [sec.gov] of exchange-registered corporations (don't get me started)? Or the ongoing representation of the presidential election as something worthy of concern [syntac.net]?

    Nothing? Guess you should have checked out the Culture Jamming: Scams & Frauds [syntac.net] page instead.

  • A friend of mine used to run nuclearweapons.com (apperantly, it is offline now). All it contained was a big explosion, the slogan "we go for the big bang" and an email address.

    There *were* people asking him if they could buy such a device. No kidding.


    ------------------
  • Um, that's the same as the one at the top, which still works fine. I did check these things...
  • While everyone is talking about how lawless the Internet is, the FTC is stepping in to reassure us all that they are doing their jobs. Beware though: The FTC is a pollitical organization. As such, they are not immune to grandstanding and headline grabbing. To help illustrate my point, let me give you a personal example.

    A little while ago I worked at one of the major online retailers. I didn't do any of the front-end design work, but most of the layout was done according to an abstration of common commercial website practices (tabs at the top, menus on the left, etc.) Things were looking good for us: We had a nice looking website and our market share was increasing.

    Then absolutely nothing we did was right. All .com's took a beating during last year's Christmas shopping season and public opinion was turned against us. Shortly thereafter (coincidence?) the FTC announced that they were taking on a brave new initiative to crack down on these rogue upshots. We got a letter from them stating that they had a few "issues" with the way our site was organized. Specifically, they wanted us to make the price after rebate less visible and make the actual link to the rebate more visible. Reasonable enough...

    So we busted our humps to make their requested changes by their deadline thinking that if we did these things they'd leave us alone. However, right after we showed them our new site they issued a press release patting themselves on the back at how they whipped us into line. I think we were in the same paragraph as some of the most notorious sites out there coupled with the shadiest online business practices.

    Anyway, my point is, we need an organization with the power the FTC has, and for the most part what they do is "good," but keep in mind that it is run by politicians.

  • "I don't care" in the version I had heard about. And since they asked for it, there's not really a lot the consumer can do about it.
  • by Lostman ( 172654 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @03:12PM (#656916)
    After reviewing a few of the "scams" on the list, it seems like most of these could be eleminated (or at least lessened) by taking just a "few" precautions.

    1) Do NOT download/install/run software from agencies/websites that you don't "know and trust." If software is offered for download from a "news agency's" website -- fine. If you are offered "Joe Bob's Brand X Debt Eliminator program" From "Joe Bob's Webyard" -- well, just dont even try it.

    2) Be VERY wary of most auction sites. Online Auctions are wonderful things -- I frequent ebay and onsale auctions all the time -- but they can also be a big area for fraud. If you see an item at an unbelievably low price, excercise buyer caution. If available, look at the information regarding the seller and info that might suggest that he doesn't sell in "good faith." Also, whenever possible pay through a "mediator" program like PayPal or through a credit card, as these services allow you to recover money lost because of fraud.

    3) "Pay 1 dollar to everyone on this list, and add your name to this list. I made over 120,000 dollars my first time!!" -- Plain and simple: DO NOT BOTHER... that and report whoever you receive this from to your/their ISP.

    While there are a lot of things to "check up on" and avoid, the biggest and most important thing to remember is to excersize some common sense -- if you wouldn't do it in "meatspace" dont do it on the net.
  • Does this mean they are finally going after some of the get-rich-quick SPAM scams that keep flooding into my mailbox? Perhaps people will start getting the idea that sending out 10,000,000 emails promising a quick and easy way to GET OUT OF DEBT NOW is not such a great deal....

    Nah....

    --

  • by elfkicker ( 162256 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @04:03PM (#656918)
    If you get whacked for not reading the fine print, you're an idiot. Period. It's your buck and if you choose to be careless with it, don't whine about it when the bill comes.

    Those dialers get a bad rap, but the one's I've seen clearly anounce the fact that you're dialing a toll number and paying for access with a telephone call instead of a check or credit card. Seems like a viable alternative to people that don't have credit cards to me. It also seems like a viable alternative for online merchants who get shafted everyday by the credit card company's oligopoly.
  • > After reviewing a few of the "scams" on the list, it seems like most of these could be eleminated (or at least lessened) by taking just a "few" precautions.
    ...

    One problem... This assumes a certain level of intelligence on the part of the average consumer.

    You might add another rule to your list too: "Greedy people make easy suckers." How many of these scams make use of the basic human tendency to try to "get something for nothing"?

    Who coined the term: "There's a Sucker born every minute" ?

    Seems these problems (and the basic human traits that make them possible) have been with us for a long time.

    --

  • this is not exactly a dot-com, although there are *reams* of websites by their cultish followers.
    a room-mate of mine got suckered in by them for a *short* period of time.

    ever been hit on by perfume knockoff salesmen with the crazed look in their eye in a wal-mart or mall parking lot?

    from http://www.detlefmp.com/vicesquad.htm
    and http://www.geocities.com/scentura99

    "PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE YOU CONTINUE WITH SCENTURA!!!
    IT'S A SCAM!

    I assume by now that you have been told that this is a 'perfume distribution company'. Distribution in this case means 'walking the streets trying to sell perfume for pennies a day'. DO NOT CONTINUE WITH SCENTURA. Tell everyone in your 'class' who will listen the truth - Scentura is a losing battle that will leave you broke!

    The 'Management' title you have is nothing but a name - you are not 'managing' anyone. The way the office is making money right now is by having you drop bottles for 29.00 in FFAR (Friends, Family & Relatives). The office keeps 19, you take 10.00. THIS WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN. On the street, you will have to push the bottles for 11.00 to 19.00 to make your quota, and will have NO CASH. The office makes it's money on 'Friends and Family' - meaning yours.

    Everything you have heard thusfar is scripted. The phone interview, the first meeting, and the second 'group' interview. Scam tactics such as 'fear of loss' are taught, and used on you to not only hook you in, but to get you excited about being broke for the entire time you are with this office. LARRY HAHN DID NOT CALL THE OFFICE TO START A CONTEST. This is another scam by the owners to suck as much cash out of you as possible before realizing that you are being taken for a ride.

    The 'paid business trips' are a lie, as well. Called a Satellite, you basically go to another city and get rid of as many bottles as you can in a weekend. You have to pay for the hotel room by working insane hours and selling 'room bottles' - bottles that are supposed to pay for the room. All it does is take money out of your pocket, so in truth you pay for it on your own.

    They define 'Job' as Just Over Broke. I guarantee that you will never be as broke as you will be with this 'company'. Fox 2 News in Detroit did an expose on Scentura, and reported exactly what I am telling you now. This is a pyramid scam (even though they tell you it's not. PLEASE OPEN YOUR EYES), and the fat rolls of cash you might see in the hands of the 'owner' are nothing but bill money. They toss it in front of you so you think they are wealthy and successful. Chances are that the office is going broke, because statistically you can't keep up mass volumes of sales in one area for that long. Most offices have a 1-year lifespan, and when the office goes down, you will receive NO SUPPORT FROM SCENTURA. You will be working 16-hour days just to make a few dollars an hour.

    There are other setbacks, as well:

    The second you join Scentura, your name is red-flagged by the IRS. There is no accurate way to keep track of your earnings, and the IRS has been severely cracking down on Scentura 'Distribution Center' owners.

    There are lawsuits being filed against these 'distribution centers' as we speak. The false advertising and stupid promises made by them have preyed on young people for far too long, and finally someone is doing something to stop it.

    Police officers DO NOT TOLERATE solicitation on the streets. Business-to-business is a gray area in law enforcement, and if you are found selling (I know you are told not to use that word, but that's what you're doing!) on the street, you will be ticketed and possibly arrested. County and City ordinances vary on this topic, and it would do you good to check with the laws of your city. Your owners need to you make street sales, so they will not warn you about possible consequences.

    Please realize before it's too late that this is a scam. Learn from countless others who have fallen victim. Why do you think the company website has no contact information? Because of all the complaints they would be getting! The reason the Better Business Bureau has no information on 'Scentura' is because the corporation makes no claims to the offices, and therefore cannot be legally tied to its practices. It's another scam tactic to keep you feeling safe, since you will have trouble finding information on the individual offices. Especially since they have such a short lifespan, and complaints can take up to a year to be investigated.

    PLEASE MAKE COPIES OF THIS AND GIVE IT TO EVERYONE IN THE CLASS! Warn people you know not to buy the products, and help us bring this scam down! You can be successful without this, and will be happy you walked out the door."

    "Listen Up-- This job is sort of a scam. See, the management people get the people who interview to think they were specially selected, though everyone gets selected. Then they tell you about this phony schooling you'll receive, all that is is some wierdo showing you how to ask (beg) someone to buy a bottle off of you. Then they get you all into the program by firing the people who can't sell any bottles, keeping the high sellers and the more professional people. Everyday from the first day until the day your "office" is about a year old, you will go sell as many bottles as you can. To get set-up in an office, your bosses tell you to sell x number of bottles in a 2 or 3 week period. The gist of this is that unless you want to sell perfume and cologne for a long time, don't let the people at the office get you hung up on thinking money is the solution to life's mystery. Forcing people to buy fake products, telling them they're sort of real, is not too respectable. Though this opportunity is good for an extremely unqualified individual, it is not good for someone who has talent in anything else. Beware of the brainwash, be aware that money is not as important as your happiness, because this job will take everything you knew from you and only give you dollars in return. I've burned many a dollar bill, but never a friend."

    Chao the Clockwork Maus
  • by Wah ( 30840 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @04:11PM (#656922) Homepage Journal
    It's a governmental function that monitors fraud in the market. WebTV is outright lying in their advertisements. This is a public channel that warns consumers about such actions, allowing them to be the informed consumers our country needs to function properly under the tenets of the free market. Personally I plan on using this as a reference when warning others away from such devices, they are severely limited and always will be. But that's not what the AOLTv commercials will say.

    --
  • It's really not that hard. Simply put, if an offer must clarify that "this is not a scam," that's exactly what it is.
  • If you are looking for investment opportunities, do your due diligence first. Best way to do this is to acquire as much information as possible about something you are planning on investing into, and share this info with an unbiased third party. You can also search websites such as the FTC, BBB, and other consumer/government agencies to see what has been reported (either positive or negative). Once you have your facts straight, make your decision.
  • I am usually the last person to defend MS, but when I read the complaint it looked like the large problem with the ads is that the ISP service is not available as a local call for everyone. That seems fine so long as the sales reps explain to potential customers in areas not locally covered that the call will be long distance. Am I missing some part of this?
  • I'm with you... I have actually used one or two of these "dialer programs" in the past. I had screwed my credit up a couple of years before, and hadn't had a credit card since then. Didn't fell like writing a check, but did feel like seeing some "entertainment" lol... Pt it on the phone bill... why not... I'm going to pay that anyways... I have credit with them, why not use it? When you get the dialer, there is a disclaimer that you _have_ to scroll though before it will let you continue, and if you don't read it, then you are stupid. It isn't that long! Plus, it tells you straight out that you will be calling some foreign number, and how much you will be paying for it. It also tells you that it will disconnect you from your ISP and redial the LD #. Where is the scam? You are paying for service, at a premium rate, but you know what you are paying. 900 numbers, which make tons of money, must also be a scam on their list. While you are at it, long distance companies should be right near the top! It doesn't cost them nearly as much as we are paying for it. What a scam!! Ah... whatever... if people want pron, they'll get it however they can.
  • P.T. Barnum:
    And right this way for the amazing Egress!
  • Some of it, such as MMF chain letters should be forwarded to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The U.S. Secret Service handles matters related to Nigerian advance fee fraud.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Your assumptions are actually quite wrong. Within the last week our company was taken for $34.84 by a scam similar to one of those mentioned on the FTC website. I know I what you are thinking 'what a dipshit you should go out of business' but what you do not know is that this company charged services to our local phone bill without written confirmation or authorization. The company in question is Zconnexx and they talked to one of our warehouse personell whose is so far from being an authorized party it is not even funny. What this means is that I spend time - the company waits for a check of a credit - and the rip-off artists keep going. My question to this group of obviously sheltered from the processes that make your paychecks appear magically every two weeks is why are your attitudes so shitty towards one of the few government agencies that actually works to help you. Waste of money and time - no way.
  • in the third paragraph there is a glaringly obvious mistake: "[...] they downloaded software used to view entertainment," of course we all know the word 'entertainment' is an error, they meant 'pr0n'.
  • H.L Menken had a great one:

    No one ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the consumer.

    There might have been a reference to the nationality of the consumer, but i forget.
  • Delivery of the bill for services or goods on utility bills, telephone bills included, is a very very good idea. Who said that that credit cards have a lock on e-commerce? Visa? Mastercard? Of course, they would say yes - but I totally disagree, especially outside of the US where the credit card penetration is very low. If the "e-commerce" dream is to come true, as cybervendors, we need all the options possible. Unfortunately, this all stems from a simple attitude that was started by our "faithful" leader, Take NO responsibility for any of your personal actions or decisions. Read the warning, buyer understand that there is more than likely always a cost for something and enjoy the net. Thanks Bill. Retro Man for President This is my 2 cents...
  • Heck, even if you look at bottles of Vitamin E:
    "Vitamin E has been shown to promote <insert good stuff about healing, bones, etc>.*

    * - these statements have not been evaluated by the FDA"

    or some similar statement. The FDA is backed up enough with requests from drug companies for prescription medicines, and if every Mom&Pop healer had to submit their 'Mustard seed exiler with snake oil' in order to sell it... plus it would be an enforcement nightmare.

    Did I mention next week I'll be selling a sure-fire solution for myopia? (for only $19.99, I'll tell you to increase the font size when you read /. - shoot, gave it away...)

    --
  • I'm glad that the gov't (e.g. the FTC) is out there pursuing these scamsters.
    But I think it's sad that they aren't out there pursuing scamsters in the medical arena. If you're of average intelligence, and take the time to pay attention, you won't fall for these scams. BUT the Sharper Image is selling stuff implying that magnets are going to heal your medical problems and keep your razor sharp, and that ions are going repair your hair and a bunch of other crap that isn't supported by any good science whatsoever. But the average guy isn't smart enough to know it's all a bunch of hooey. If you pore over the claims VERY carefully, you realize that they couch the claims: "people report", "may", "is said to", "is commonly believed to"... likewise for the massive "herbal supplement" issue! Natural DOESN'T correlate with safe.
    "Supplements" should be regulated the same way as "drugs".
  • /. isn't about being the first to break the news but about the discussion.
  • by Skim123 ( 3322 ) <mitchell@@@4guysfromrolla...com> on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @03:04PM (#656936) Homepage
    Have you read the FTC's complaint against WebTV? http://www.ftc.gov/os/2000/10/webtvcomplaint.htm [ftc.gov].. . basically boils down to, "WebTV says the box-top set is great and replaces the need for a computer to get on-line, but WebTV doesn't tell you can't use WebTV to download files or open common email attachments." Oy. It's a lengthy complaint probably costing us several hundred dollars of tax money.
  • by HerrNewton ( 39310 ) <thoiigd3pn5p25001NO@SPAMsneakemail.com> on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @03:04PM (#656937) Homepage
    Contet doesn't matter in this instance. The FTC is concerned because some (most...) of those dialer programs dial numbers in foreign countries, usually somewhere in the Caribbean. It's very much like long distance slamming, where you get shunted from the service you expect to be using to one with incredibly high rates.

    ----
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @02:59PM (#656938)
    From the article ... "One common complaint involved consumers who were automatically disconnected from their ISP (Internet service provider) when they downloaded software used to view entertainment, said Eileen Harrington, director for marketing practices at the FTC."

    Would you still feel bad about the scam if you knew it was't just "entertainment" but PORN? Doesn't the FTC want us to know that they're looking after our PORN-viewing rights?
  • I think they missed one... how 'boot trolling on /. ? That's all we see here, day in and day out.

    That's gotta be worth something!
  • by epaulson ( 7983 ) on Wednesday November 01, 2000 @03:00PM (#656940) Homepage
    Actually, there's a list published every day:

    NASDAQ [nasdaq.com]

  • with all the con artists, I am surprised to see there havent been some lovely frivoulis(sp) lawsuits to rear thier ugly heads. It seems to me the people that end up getting scammed are not only gullible and dim-witted but also love to look for someone, anyone else to blame when they get ripped off.
  • Who coined the term: "There's a Sucker born every minute" ?

    I beleive that would be one P. T. Barnum, most likely, or perhaps Oscar Wilde.

    You remember of course Mr Barnum of the famous Barnum and Bailey Circus.

    --

  • I remember hearing something a long time ago about LD co's called "It doesn't matter" or "Whatever Company" to scam you when the operator asks you which LD company you want to use - a LOT of people would answer "It doesn't matter" or "Whatever" and get charged out the a$$.

    It was on 60 minutes (a long time ago) I believe.

    Verbatim

"Most people would like to be delivered from temptation but would like it to keep in touch." -- Robert Orben

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