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Published: Saturday, 2/18/2006

Beware of rising high-tech scams, business bureau warns area vets

Eppstein Eppstein

Scammers are using technology at an alarming rate to snare their prey and they are increasingly from places other than the United States, Richard Eppstein told an audience of military veterans yesterday.

"One of the biggest changes in my 34 years with the BBB is the Internet and e-mail," said Mr. Eppstein, president of the local chapter of the Better Business Bureau.

The bureau covers 18 counties in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.

"We are fighting constantly these e-mail messages that look like they're from reputable companies," he said.

Mr. Eppstein told the audience of about 50 at the weekly meeting of the Toledo Post 335 of the American Legion that they should never respond to an e-mail request to verify personal information, no matter how legitimate an e-mail looks or if it is purportedly from such well-known firms as Best Buy or Visa.

"They are sent out by the gazillion and people think they're real," he said. "But they're coming from people in Russia and China and Latvia."

Calls or e-mails from Nigeria or South Africa should be immediately suspect, Mr. Eppstein said, but so should unsolicited calls from Canada. He said he recently fielded a call from a local woman who said she had received a call from a customs agent in Niagara Falls, Canada, who said he had a package for her that included two checks: one for $180,000 and another for $80,000 because she had won the Canadian lottery. All she had to do was bring a check for $8,000 for duty fees. She insisted the offer was legitimate.

"You try to appeal to logic, and that's our mistake," Mr. Eppstein said. He reiterated for the audience: "Winning means free. If you have to send money, it's a scam."

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