The Internet is known to be a wealth of information on the one hand, and a seemingly bottomless pit of scams and hoaxes on the other. Since almost anyone with a computer and access to the Internet can create a website, blog, or edit Wikipedia, bogus information could be anywhere.
...So It Must Be True
*Editor's note: This article was originally published Aug 25, 2009 and has been republished for archival purposes. New scams and hoaxes are popping up every day. The best way to protect yourself is to educate yourself on past and current hoaxes, and double check an email or website if you're suspicious.
You say: "Clemmer, we know the Internet is still full of cons and tricksters! What about it?" Well, as access to the Internet continues to grow internationally, and the volume and totals of Internet commerce increase, the potential for scam artists becomes ever more enticing. And with messaging as rapid as Facebook and Twitter with mobile connectivity a hoax can spread so fast that it might seem unstoppable.
While it may be hard to beat 2008's Montauk Monster or Bigfoot's body, let's take a look at the top scams and hoaxes of 2009.
GIVE / Serve America Act Creates an Obama Youth Brigade
E-mails and blog posts suggested that the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, signed into law by president Obama in April of 2009 would require mandatory service by anyone receiving school loans, prohibit them from practicing religion, and prohibits protests, etc.
While the bill was signed into law, it does not create a potential NAZI youth brigade, or enact the restrictions suggested. The law is an extension of the same legislation that created AmeriCorps in 1973 and amended in 1990. The restrictions on religious practice or teaching that are present only require that participants not take part in them publicly while on active duty; members are allowed to do what they like in their off-time.
Using the Cash for Clunkers Web Site Makes Your PC Government Property
Notices began appearing with text similar to the following:
WARNING - DO NOT LOG ON TO CARS.GOV
If you log on to cars.gov and accept the privacy terms, the government now has the right to take all the information on your computer. That will include all your personal information, bank records, transactions, web site log ins, EVERYTHING ON YOUR COMPUTER.
Cars.gov is the web site set up for the "Cash for Clunkers" rebate program. The site had a poorly written terms of service & privacy statement that was aimed at the dealer support transactions function of the web site. The statement was intended for dealers and their data entry of information on sales made and rebates requested. The statement wasn't aimed at customers and was not related to their use of the web site.
Even if the statement had been intended for everyone, it would not have been legal or enforceable. Recently the "frightening" Privacy Act & Security Statement was updated to have much more accurate and far less disturbing content.
Work At Home Scams
With the U.S. economy in recession in 2009, and with record unemployment numbers, the scammers dusted off one of their favorites, the "Work From Home" scam. Craigslist, low-cost web advertising, and forum posts seemed to pop up everywhere suggesting that there were innumerable opportunities for work, if only you'd stay home and do the work on your computer! One of the big ones for 2009 seems to be a Google Ads or Adwords "opportunity". As with most of these fakes, you're required to buy something up front, or pay to register to get access to the supposed listings.
Keep these scams in mind as you surf the web and stay safe!