Tuesday, November 20, 2012

You've Been Scammed On the Internet. Now What?

English: Image is similar, if not identical, t...
English: Image is similar, if not identical, to the San Francisco Police Department patch. Made with Photoshop. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Due to the distributed nature of the Internet, and often disguised nature of a scheme, it is often hard to know where you should complain to, if you have been scammed.

Often, the victims are to embarrassed to be victimized, they never speak up, thus allowing the scammer to scam even MORE victims.

Here's a short list of where you can complain. You're unlikely to get your money back, but you'll let people know and help them avoid the scam.

Sometimes, complaining to the local police, esp. when it is in a large city, may have some result. 

My friend was the victim of a "sweetheart scam" where he was befriended by someone who claimed to be in England and want to meet him... then she claimed she's about to get some big inheritance and needs some money for legal paperwork. Yep, the standard scam bait. I told my friend this is bogus, he insists that it's real and he had talked to the "bank manager" and so on. Apparently, this scam was on San Francisco Police's radar that an inspector asked my friend to come down to his office downtown so they can explain to him how he'd been "taken for a ride". Fortunately, he hadn't send off any money yet. 

But what about bogus claims on the Internet? (or heck, in person?) What if some crazy guy claims he can cure cancer through some magic water and algae extract and magnet therapy or such? 

Personally, I think the FTC is way too lenient on bogus claims, and they are never prosecuted enough. UK is ahead of us in this regard, as they have an independent authority called Advertising Standards Authority, or ASA, that covers:

  • Magazine and newspaper advertisements 
  • Radio and TV commercials (not programmes or programme sponsorship) 
  • Television Shopping Channels 
  • Advertisements on the Internet, including:
    • banner and display ads
    • paid-for (sponsored) search
    • Marketing on companies’ own websites and in other space they control like social networking sites Twitter and Facebook 
  • Commercial e-mail and SMS text message ads
  • Posters on legitimate poster sites (not fly posters)
  • Leaflets and brochures 
  • Cinema commercials 
  • Direct mail (advertising sent through the post and addressed to you personally) 
  • Door drops and circulars (advertising posted through the letter box without your name on) 
  • Ads on CD ROMs, DVD and video, and faxes
  • Sales promotions, such as special offers, prize draws and competitions wherever they appear.
In the US this was supposed to be the job of FTC to go after false advertising, but this is VERY RARELY DONE, esp. on the Internet! 

When are the US authorities going to wake up and setup a NATION-WIDE standard for truth in advertising, and actually PUNISH companies that make such bogus claims? 

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