Friday, April 1, 2011

Computer Fraud: Beware of Internet Scams!

As a former federal prosecutor, I often received telephone inquiries from average folks seeking information about potential internet scams.  Over the years, I have heard about all sorts of fraudulent lotteries, sweepstakes, auctions, advance fee scams, and pyramid schemes.  I have prosecuted quite a few of these fraudulent schemes.  All these schemes work pretty much the same:  the lure of a large prize with a request for a "small" fee. 
Now, as an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense lawyer, I still frequently receive calls from people who are wanting to know if they "really have just won" the grand prize in an overseas sweepstakes and whether it is okay to send a processing fee to claim their winnings!  You can probably guess my response to such callers! Today, I heard about a new variation on an old scam!  I fielded a call from a lady who had received an email message indicating that she had just been named  the beneficiary in a wealthy English citizen's will.  Naturally, she told me that she did not know the deceased!  And naturally, she was informed that she merely had to send $1045.00, (a "will registry fee!"), in order to claim her huge bequest!  I felt sorry for the caller, but I was glad she called me.
As you know, internet fraud is a major, world-wide problem.  Everyone is a potential victim.  (Just check your inbox today!)  And the problem seems only to be getting worse.  According to, the average loss from such internet fraud scams is about $1,500.00.  As I told today's caller, even if only one out of every 1000 email targets bites the hook and sends money, that is still a very profitable criminal enterprize!
So, today's message, whether you call me on the telephone, or whether you simply read this post, is that, just like your momma told you, in life, you almost never get something for nothing!  And that English baron who named you as beneficiary in his will is sort of like the Easter bunny--he seems to hop around pretty good, but he really doesn't exist!  


  1. It always disturbs me to think of all the people who might not know to be wary of these scams. Sometimes the emails can appear legitimate. But, really! Why would anyone think they have won a sweepstakes they never entered?! Yet, thousands of unsuspecting people fall for that every day.

    I have gotten a lot of these scam emails over the last few years--everything from bogus cash award notices to someone trying to phish my email passwords or PayPal account information. A legitimate site will never ask for your password or private information in an email.

    I do not open any suspicious looking email. I sometimes click on the pull-down menu to view the source and a brief run down of content. Then, if I have a way of reporting it a site for action (PayPal does that), I report it.

    It also pays to have a really good security system on your computer. Those "free" security sites might sound like they can do everything possible to protect you, but there are so many con artists out there now, and they have the know-how and the resources to get through all but the best security systems. They can retrieve your private information for their own use, and they can damage your computer. A good security system will cost $50 to $70 a year, and it is well worth the expense.

    I always enjoy your blogs. I thought it was time I let you know that I do read them.


  2. Hi Shirley,
    Thank you for the visit, astute observations, and kind comments! I hope to make it to the reunion! Best wishes!