Beware of dot-cons and online scams


POSTED: Friday, March 06, 2009

Get an e-mail from someone saying you are eligible for President Barack Obama's much-talked-about economic stimulus fund?

Oh, but you must pay $1.99, and go to this Web link to fill out your bank account information to get a direct deposit.

Don't do it.

Your bank in Hawaii sends an urgent message saying your account has been deactivated, and you need to click on this link to verify your account information.

Don't click on the link.

Here's the deal. Banks and credit unions will never, ever ask for your account information online, via e-mail or solicit it over the phone. Nor will the IRS.

These “;phishing”; scams are designed to steal your personal information, including account numbers and passwords by directing you to a fake hot line or Web site (which do a pretty good job of looking legitimate). The fake economic stimulus offer is the latest one out of the box.

In 2007, a phishing scam sent e-mails to Bank of Hawaii customers with an online survey, in exchange for a $100 reward that required an account number, password and Social Security number.

It may seem natural since we do shop and bank online these days, and give credit card numbers over the phone. The difference is that we made the call - not them.

Be wary of links that are sent, not sought out by you.

Whether through e-mail, snail mail or phone calls telling you that you can make six figures working from home (but need to pay $1,500 first), make a commission out of a bank transfer, or that you've won $1 million but must pay an advance fee to claim it, scammers are everywhere.


A common scam comes from a friend or family member's e-mail account, saying he needs your help - and that you need to wire money as soon as possible.

Hit delete. It's best not to open unsolicited e-mails or click on embedded links because they may contain viruses or malware.

On Craigslist, though most users are honest people, there will be an occasional bad apple.Craigslist offers rules of thumb for preventing scams. The online community board recommends dealing locally with people you can meet in person, and sticking with cash.

Never take a cashier's check or money order, as a bank may cash them, but hold you responsible if a fake is discovered weeks later. A common trick - the overpayment scam - offers a fake check and then asks the seller to wire back the amount overpaid.

Never wire funds via Western Union MoneyGram or any other wire service to someone on Craigslist - no, not even to that hottie who promises you a date but needs your help flying in from out of state.

Avoid deals involving shipping or escrow services, and do not give out your bank account, PayPal info or Social Security number.

And if anyone asks you to wire money to Nigeria (as recently happened in the Kailua townhouse rental scam), any other country or state, for that matter, always be suspicious.

Nigeria, the source of several evolutions of scams over the last few years, is itself a red flag.



Here's The Deal, which helps consumers stretch their dollars in these tough economic times, runs every other Friday.