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March Scam of the Month: Barnett Warns of Newest Internet Scams

MARCH SCAM OF THE MONTH:
BARNETT WARNS OF NEWEST INTERNET SCAMS

Attorney General Mark Barnett is warning South Dakota consumers this month of the newest Internet scams. "Most of the scams we’re now seeing on the Internet have evolved from scams originally started by direct mail or telemarketing scam artists," Barnett said. "The Internet has simply given con artists a new means in which to target unsuspecting consumers."

Today’s Internet scams mimic common telemarketing and direct mail scams. All want your money, make false promises, and are generally illegal. They include:

    • On-line pyramid schemes in which scam artists promise investors a double or triple return on their money by simply getting other people to join the pyramid.
    • Basic offers of products or services where scam artists obtain payment up-front and disappear without providing the promised goods.
    • Fraudulent business opportunities where crooks use fake predictions of profitability and other misrepresentations to lure investors. This includes foreign investment schemes where huge returns are promised by simply wiring money to foreign or offshore investment brokers or groups.
    • Foreign lotteries - often originating from Canada, Australia, or Europe.
    • Work-at-home schemes promising thousands of dollars a month by sending mass e-mails or doing word processing.

"As more South Dakotans gain access to the Internet, we are seeing an increase in Internet related scams," Barnett said. "As with all offers that sound too good to be true… don’t quit your day job."

Barnett offers the following tips to help consumers avoid Internet scams:

  • Be extremely skeptical of "get-rich-quick" business ventures on the Internet. Remember, pyramid schemes are illegal.
    • With respect to other investment opportunities, investigate all earnings claims by consulting a financial professional or a trusted financial adviser. 
  • Be wary of work-at-home programs advertised on the Internet.    
  • When purchasing goods or services over the Internet, only buy from companies you know and trust. Be sure you know where the company is located.    
  • As always, guard your credit card and bank account numbers.    
  • Avoid foreign lotteries. They are illegal and usually scams anyway.

Consumers with questions, concerns, or complaints about Internet scams or any scams are encouraged to contact Barnett’s Division of Consumer Protection at 1-800-300-1986. Additional consumer protection information is also available at the Attorney General’s website (www.state.sd.us/atg).