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Scams hit bay area residents


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 26, 1999

For those who think online scams can't happen to them, two recent incidents in the Tampa Bay area might change their mind.

* Chuck Waterhouse, an engineer at the Web consulting firm Site Dynamics in Clearwater, said his fiancee received an e-mail about an America Online billing problem. The message referred her to a Web site that looked like an official AOL page, including logos and trademarks. To fix the problem, she was asked to provide personal information, including her password and credit card information.

Suspicious, she talked to Waterhouse, who did some poking around the Web site and found it was actually a pornographic site. They reported it to AOL. Waterhouse, who also has an AOL account, doesn't know why his fiancee was targeted.

* George Pffeifer, a St. Petersburg retiree, received an e-mail confirming an online purchase. The problem: Pffeifer has never bought anything online. He called a long-distance phone number listed in the message for questions or cancellations, which he said turned out to be a sex line.

He called AOL, his online provider, canceled his bank card and got GTE not to charge him for the long-distance call. He doesn't know why he got the message, but the experience upset him.

"It really shook me up," Pffeifer said, "because I've always had a fear of that, as people get older, you're always thinking someone's ripping you off."

His advice to others online: "Be very, very careful."

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