Like most channel dwellers, if you're not actively using the Internet to sell something, you've thought about it. Well, there's a problem that few of us have faced up to yet. The Internet is full of scams and rip-off merchants and outright thieves. We'll look back on today's easy-going attitude with nostalgia, as there's no doubt we're in for much tougher regulation and policing of what happens in cyberspace.
E-mail is a prime example. While it might be illegal to use Australia Post for a number of dishonest activities, many of these can be successfully reproduced electronically.
Some recent examples I've received include an e-mail version of the Nigerian scam, invitations to send money off to join a lotto syndicate, and various chain letters. One particularly grubby effort works on the recipient's greed (but don't most of them?). For $US199 or $99 or $49 it offers to show how you can take advantage of the disparity between currency exchange rates around the world, and parlay your money from currency to currency, making thousands of per cent gain in the process. The e-mail happily lists testimonials and news stories from well-known newspapers and journals - none of them real!
Conducting business over the Internet must also be tightened if honest traders are to prosper. Luckily for us, many of the current scams aren't relevant to Australians. These include promises to fix your credit rating, get you a loan at less than market rates, get you a credit card with no interest for the first year, buy US Government seized goods and real estate for a couple of per cent of the real value and so on.
Unfortunately, many of the scams can and do hit locals. These include: fake Web auctions; online-ordered goods that never get delivered or are nothing like what you expect if you do get them; shonky online training courses or accreditation schemes and subscriptions to unsatisfactory online services (usually X-rated).
Even one of the online access companies comes with a great deal of baggage in this area. In the US it's accused of forgetting to unsubscribe members, of double-billing on credit cards and of moving people to higher tariff plans without telling them.
I wouldn't want to see you try this, but the following scam is at least amusing. While most people have trouble getting a refund from a "30-day satisfaction guarantee", unhappy subscribers to one smutty service were promptly issued refund cheques, issued by the "Anal fetish and pederast society". For some reason, not everyone bothered to bank their refund cheque.