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Internet users must be wary of fake schemes

Islamabad, June 11, 2008: Internet users are fast becoming prey to online auctions, distance selling and job offering frauds with scammers just disappear after minting money from hundreds of thousands of people.

Scammers running various websites request the internet users to provide personal and banking details and a 'goodwill' or 'advance fee' payment. The information provided by the users is used for illegal activities and the money submitted by them is never seen again.

"Internet users especially in Pakistan must be careful of distance selling because once the money is submitted to anyone dealing from another country, it is apparently impossible to get back the submitted amount if it proves to be a fraudulent activity," said Amin Akram, a local businessman. He said the users must make sure that the seller provides the price of the item, arrangements for delivery and contact information. "Anyone who fails to provide this basic information is probably trying to run a scam." Fraudulent persons advertise a job on behalf of a real company. A bogus telephone or email interview might also take place and after some time the subscribers are informed that they have been selected for the job and only have to send a fixed amount of money for work visa or travel costs, but it turns out in the end that everything was fake.

Some competitions invite subscribers to claim their allocated prize by telephoning a hotline number and this could be charged at a premium rate and last many minutes.

It usually occurs when any one visit a website and a bold message flashes over the screen reading "you are the millionth visitor of this website and entitled to a big prize". But when the user submits the required amount to get the prize then he comes to know that the submitted amount is lost to unknown persons. Internet usage in the country has witnessed a tremendous increase during the last couple of years with its users reaching a record number of 13 million. Internet Service Providers (ISPs), which were concentrating in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad have now extended their services in other cities as well and this service is currently available in more than 2,389 cities and towns in Pakistan.

Fraudulent persons are also cashing in on the innocence of young children, as they initiate an online friendship with them, share hobbies and interests that may lead to exchange of gifts and pictures. Although no family is immune to the possibility that their children may be deceived on the Internet, especially when they use the computer unsupervised, they are more likely to engage in online discussions of a personal nature.

Some children become unwitting participants, as they actively participate in chat rooms, trade e-mail messages, and send pictures online without taking much care in this process. Salma Hayat, a local computer teacher, said the children must not give personal information (name, address and phone number) and choose a nick that does not identify personal information. They should also not share password with anyone even with best friends and avoid responding to unwanted, mean, offensive or threatening e-mail, chat room dialogue or instant messages.

Many young boys often resort to exploit new technology for flirtation and other purposes and most of them are engaged in flirting foreign girls to use them, as a bridge to go abroad. But sometimes-careless approach leads to undesired results. In Rawalpindi, a 4-member group headed by a girl reportedly trapped young boys on internet through online dating. The young boys were invited for a meeting at some place after which the group of muggers started exploiting them. The boys with no other option were compelled to pay money demanded by these muggers.

By Noor Aftab (The News)
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