Beware the Spam Scam

Posted: September 26, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Robin Herron

Just when you thought you’d heard about every online scam there is, a new one comes along. This one could have you out thousands of dollars—it happened to one Mason faculty member.

The scam company sends out spam advertising “new” computers. The company will send you a computer, alright, but it’s not new and it’s not working properly. When you contact them to complain or get the computer repaired, you find the company has vanished.

Leslie Painter, manager of Patriot Computers, got a call from an adjunct faculty member who fell victim to the scam. Not knowing at the time that there was a computer store on campus that offers excellent products and prices to faculty, staff and students, the adjunct had purchased a computer based on an e-mail she received at her gmu.edu address.

Since then, the “victim” has learned that this company has a long, bad history, and there is even a web site devoted to warning others about it.

“It has tremendous impact because I spent $1,600 and now have a machine that could have who-knows-what in it—pirated software, tracking devices for identity theft, defective parts or whatever,” the adjunct says.

“I just hope my story prevents someone else from ending up in this situation.”

On its web site, Mason’s Information Technology Unit offers some tips for avoiding spam. However, if you choose to take advantage of an unsolicited offer via e-mail, the caveat emptor rule—”let the buyer beware”—always applies.

Cathy Hubbs, IT security coordinator, says that in the current computer environment, following unsolicited e-mails can be a hazardous endeavor. If the advertisement looks good, she advises, don’t follow any web links embedded in the message. Instead, write down the name of the business and do some quick research. Put the name in Google or check it out at the Better Business Bureau web site.

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