THE Internet makes life simple in so many ways and puts a world of information at our fingertips. But it also invites con men in the front door.
No matter how often the authorities remind the public, unsuspecting decent people are easy prey for scam artists who exploit the Worldwide Web. They spam us with e-mail and scam us with opportunities too good to be true.
These days, the crooks use Internet tools such as eBay, where almost anything imaginable is for sale. Toledo Police Detective Bart Beavers labels eBay the 21st century pawn shop. "We are literally at the mercy of the con artist. The Internet is the Wild West. There's no law," he said.
One of the most popular scams tricks honest sellers into believing somebody is sincere about buying their goods and is willing to pay for an item, plus shipping and handling, with a valid check.
A so-called "buyer" then sends the seller a check for more than what the seller asks. The "buyer" tells the seller to cash the check, keep shipping and handling costs, and return the difference to the buyer.
The unsuspecting seller probably pats himself on the back, until his bank calls and says the check was no good. Then he has to pay the bank for however much the fake check was made out for, and pay for the bounced check.
An Anthony Wayne High School senior avoided becoming such a victim. He used a Web site to try to sell an organ for $800. An interested buyer sent an e-mail from England. When the young man got a check for $6,500, and the check's logo didn't match the bank's, his family called authorities.
The problem is widespread. The FBI in northwest Ohio and the Better Business Bureau have both received complaints.
In this era of Internet commerce, it's worth keeping in mind that spam and scam sound and look a lot alike.