Know The Code

Tangled Web

If an offer on the Internet sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Consumer reports of fraud to Internet Fraud Watch, a service of the nonprofit consumer advocacy group National Consumers League, have tripled in the last year.

The dramatic growth of Internet-related commerce has resulted in what Internet Fraud Watch director Susan Grant calls a "giant yard sale in cyberspace." Consumers purchase a variety of goods and services without ever laying eyes on either the product or its seller, making them vulnerable to fraud.

Fraudulent sales of computer-related services and general merchandise were the two most common crimes reported to Internet Fraud Watch, followed by multilevel marketing and franchising scams.

How can you avoid becoming a victim of fraud? Internet Fraud Watch suggests that when buying services or merchandise online, make sure you know whom you're dealing with by checking the track record of the business with a consumer agency.

Internet Fraud Watch relays crime reports to law enforcement agencies in both the United States and Canada. You can report an Internet fraud or solicitation at or by calling (800) 876-7060.

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This article was originally published in the February 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Know The Code.

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