Wrong Side of the Net

There aren't any sirens in the night, but the Web does have its seedy underbelly. Protect yourself from the grifters, the scammers and the crooks.

Psst! hey, buddy, you wanna get rich? Here's a deal for you. I'LL SHOW YOU HOW HOT SCANDANAVIAN BEAUTIES WILL MAKE YOU RICH JUST FOR BREATHING.

Whoa there, hold your horses! Read "Net Alert" before you get suckered into a scam.

OK, I made that up. It's not a legitimate business opportunity. But IF YOU ACT RIGHT NOW and send me a mere $49.95 (plus $8.95 for shipping and handling), I'll show you how to start your own method for making big bucks by charging other people $49.95 to learn my secrets. Does this sound too good to be true? What if I told you that this offer is ABSOLUTELY RISK-FREE and that you have my UNCONDITIONAL GUARANTEE? Did I mention that this is a GROUND-FLOOR OPPORTUNITY that unlocks the potential of THE EXPLOSIVE GROWTH OF THE INTERNET?

Now I've got you. It was the mention of the Internet, wasn't it? Like a rotting pile of meat, the Internet has created a buzz attracting all the world's vermin, vultures and parasites, with the naive surfer performing as the host. We've all read about the successes of those who made an early entry and claimed some turf on the Net. The lure to jump on this cyber gravy train is compelling, to say the least. Fortunes have been made for those who own the right dotcom, but, for the rest of us, does the Web hold the keys to our next fortune...or the poor house?

According to the National Consumers League (www.fraud.org), consumers reported to the organization more than $3.2 million lost to Internet fraud during 1999. Overall, the NCL marked a 38 percent increase in Internet fraud complaints and revealed that the average consumer who filed a complaint was bilked for as much as $580. "Many consumers shop online and have good experiences," says Susan Grant, director of the Internet Fraud Watch, "but the increases we've seen in the number of complaints and the amounts of money lost point to the need for more consumer protection and education."

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This article was originally published in the July 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Wrong Side of the Net.

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