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Scam Alert

A Decade of Deceit

The "King of Nigeria" still reigns among top online scams of 2000 to 2010

  • Romance rip-offs. On dating websites and chat rooms, scammers take false identities such as Russian model and wealthy executive working overseas to steal the hearts — and money — of the lovelorn. After some e-mail schmoozing, they ask for money to come meet their newfound soul mate or to help with a sudden financial emergency. The scammers' good looks are as bogus as their stories: In 2006, Scam Alert revealed that photographs posted as the wooing fraudsters are usually stolen from legitimate modeling websites.

  • Employment scams. In the foreign-agent variation of this con, says Panda, e-mails or job-board postings offer work-at-home jobs, allegedly from foreign companies. Respond to the advertisements and you're asked for your bank account number (allegedly for direct deposit of paychecks), Social Security number for a background check and sometimes money for supplies or certifications. You may receive checks and be asked to deposit them and send back a portion (minus your commission). You may get merchandise that you are told to reship. Again, the checks are bogus, and reshipped goods are usually stolen, exposing you to criminal charges — all while exposing you to identity theft by revealing your personal info.

  • Stranded overseas. In this recent ruse, cybercrooks hack into Facebook and e-mail accounts and, pretending to be the account holder, they send e-mails to all the contacts, claiming to be stranded in some foreign country and in desperate need of wired money.

  • Overpayment scams. Post "for sale" items on Craigslist or online auctions, and expect to be contacted by a mathematically challenged "buyer" who sends a check that's higher than the sales price. Never mind, just send back the difference, the person says. Again, the check received is fake, and the difference sent is lost.

Sid Kirchheimer is author of Scam-Proof Your Life (AARP Books/Sterling).

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