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Learn about the dangers and how to protect yourself from scam and spam.

"Forward this message to 10 people and you'll receive a cash prize!"… "Grant a dying child's last wish- send an e-mail now."… "Alert! Your computer has been infected with a DANGEROUS VIRUS!!"

These are examples of some common Internet hoaxes and scams currently cruising around the information superhighway. They are frauds, hoaxes, myths, and chain letters. Then there's spam--the irritating electronic equivalent to junk mail. Learning how to discern the fakes from the facts may help save you time and unnecessary concern.

According to the National Consumer's League, the top five types of frauds found on the Internet include 1) phony prize offers, 2) bogus travel packages, 3) fraudulent investments, 4) work-at-home swindles and 5) false virus warnings.

You can spot these and other scams by keeping the following in mind:

Beware any unsolicited e-mails. Was the text actually written by the person who sent it to you? If not, be skeptical.

Red flags should go up if you see the phrase, "Forward this to everyone you know."

Look for over emphatic language, the frequent use of UPPERCASE LETTERS and multiple exclamation points!!!!!

If the communication declares, "This is not a lie," it usually is. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Always apply common sense and never feel compelled to forward messages, no matter how urgent they may seem.

One way to protect yourself from receiving more unsolicited messages is by not responding to a common spam instruction to reply and "unsubscribe." By doing this, Internet users simply confirm that spammers have a valid e-mail address on their list – prompting even more unwanted e-mail.

While the Internet can be used to con people, it also can be used to discover the truth. The following watchdog sites can answer many questions about Internet scams and hoaxes:

www.fraud.org -- Use the National Fraud Information Center's (NFIC) Online Incident Report Form to report scams and spam.

www.consumer.gov -- This Federal Trade Commission web site includes advice regarding online shopping, Internet fraud and identity theft.

Protect your computer and your peace of mind each time you log on. With reason and some trusted resources, you can use the Internet without getting tangled in the Web.

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