I happen to browse through this interesting post of Carol McKay. There seems no end to the creative thinking of Fraudsters. They can go on & on …..
Disaster-related Frauds Continue
Con artists are exploiting the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 to bilk people. National Fraud Information Center/Internet Fraud Watch (NFIC/IFW) counselors have begun to hear from consumers about possible disaster-related scams:
- A caller falsely claiming to represent the Readers Digest sweepstakes told a consumer that her winnings could not be delivered because mail service was disrupted. He asked her to wire him $2,500 in order to expedite delivery.
- A man received an email asking for financial support for a group of computer experts who were supposedly attempting to track Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts. The email gave a bank account number, to which donations could be deposited, and the name of an individual in the country of Estonia.
- A voice mail message asked for help in raising $1 million for victims of the attacks. When the consumer called the number back he reached the answering machine for an unfamiliar telemarketing company.
- Fraudulent telemarketers, some pretending to be from Publishers Clearing House, have told consumers that donations will be made to national recovery and rescue efforts if they purchase magazines or other products with sweepstakes entries.
Be cautious about any solicitation that mentions the disaster. Give to charities you know and trust. If someone claims to be collecting money that will go to charities, ask which ones and check with them directly to make sure it’s true. Confirm that charities are properly registered by contacting their state charities regulators, which are listed in the state government pages of telephone books. Information about charities is also available from the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, 703-276-0100, http://www.give.org.
Be especially wary of emails from strangers. While many legitimate organizations are using the Internet to mobilize help for disaster victims, crooks also take advantage of this new medium to reach a wide audience of potential victims.
To report disaster-related telemarketing or Internet fraud, call 800-876-7060 or use the online complaint form on http://www.fraud.org. Deceptive mailings can be reported to the Postal Inspection Service by calling 800-372-8347 or visiting http://www.usps.gov/postalinspectors/fraud. The U.S. Department of Justice has a special Web page to inform consumers about schemes related to the events of Sept. 11 at http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/fraud/WTCPent-SpecRpt.htm
Another unfortunate consequence of the terrorist attacks has been the proliferation of online hoaxes and stories about consumer products. Rumors sent by email or in online chat rooms can spread very quickly about alleged associations with terrorist groups. They can be damaging and are very difficult to combat.
§ The National Soft Drink Association reports a rumor that gum Arabic, an FDA-approved ingredient in confectionery products, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and some citrus-based soft drinks, imported mainly from Sudan, is in some way connected to Osama bin Laden. In a September 15, 1998 Baltimore Sun article, a U.S. State Department official said bin Laden divested himself of all “Sudanese” holdings when he was expelled from Sudan in 1996. In that same report, the Sun, quoting another State Department official said, “Bin Laden and his cronies tried to take over all the gum Arabic crop in the early 1990’s, ‘but failed in their attempt.’”
§ The Internet site http://www.snopes.com reports that the national chain Dunkin’ Donuts is the victim on an online rumor campaign about a flag burning in one of its outlets and employees’ celebrations over the attacks. Messages calling for a boycott of the company are rampant on the Internet. Police have investigated the allegations and found that they are completely false. They even examined store surveillance tapes from the day in question to confirm it. Sadly, the time the rumor was debunked in the press, employees of the store had already received threats of violence.
§ The beverage company Snapple has also been hit. Online gossip claims an association with bin Laden, as reported on http://www.urbanlegends.com. Snapple is wholly owned by Cadbury-Schweppes, a large British company. In an open letter to “all Snapple consumers and friends” on the Snapple Web site, CEO Michael Weinstein says, “Snapple has never had–and does not now–have any direct or indirect relationship of any kind whatsoever with Osama bin Laden or any other terrorist group or supporter.”
The rumor mill will continue to churn stories linking various companies and consumer products to terrorist activities and groups. Check your facts before believing what you hear or read.