Hello and welcome to today’s edition of  TECH 5. This is Ben Harrison.

Yesterday we discussed the developing role of technology and the benefits it is bringing to creating a better world, but technology also has a dark side has given birth to what has become known as Cyber Criminals, introducing a whole new division of activity to multi-billion dollar a year organised crime syndicates.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States or FBI, has a website dedicated to internet scams. We can learn much from it to help recognize these sophisticated cyber crime con artists and protect ourselves and our loved ones from becoming victims.

The first known usage of the term “con or confidence man” in English was in 1849 by the New York City press, during the trial of William Thompson. Thompson chatted with strangers until he had built up their trust. He then asked if they had the confidence to lend him their watches, and he would walk off with their watch.

In David Mamet‘s film House of Games, the main con artist explains that, in a typical swindle, the con man gives the mark his own confidence, encouraging the mark to in turn trust him. The con artist thus poses as a trustworthy person looking for another trustworthy person to take advantage of.

In con world jargon, there is what are known as short and long cons. A short con is a fast swindle which takes just minutes. It aims to rob the victim of everything in his or her wallet. (or the watch on his arm).  Other scams that unfold over several days or weeks involve a team of swindlers, as well as props, sets, extras, costumes, and scripted lines, designed to rob the victim of thousands of dollars, often by getting him or her to empty out bank accounts and borrow from family members.

Confidence tricks take advantage of typical human characteristics such as greed, dishonesty, vanity, opportunism, compassion,   irresponsibility, desperation, and naivety. As such, there is no consistent profile of a confidence trick victim; the common factor is simply that victims are, naively attracted to the smooth talking personality of the con artist. Victims of investment scams especially tend to show a naive level of greed and gullibility. Not too long ago, we had unfortunate publicity of  financial scam artists and their victims right here on St. Vincent. While many con artists target the elderly, even alert and educated people are taken in by other forms of confidence trickery.

In a traditional confidence trick, the victim or mark is led to believe that s/he will be able to win money or some other prize by doing some task or receive unrealistically high interest rates by investing in or depositing money with the con man. Accomplices of the lead actor may pretend to be strangers who have benefited from his plans or investments in the past.

Today the Internet has become the major tool in the development of major scam activity. Late last year, the FBI reminded holiday shoppers to beware of cyber criminals who are out to steal money and personal information. This is called identity theft. Scammers use many techniques to defraud consumers, including e-mails offering too good to be true deals on brand-name merchandise.

Yesterday we urged you to review your credit card statements each month searching for unrecognizable charges. An unrecognised charge is often a signal that your personally identifiable information has been stolen. The same thing applies to your online bank account. Bank accounts can often serve as a target for criminals to initiate account takeovers or commit identity theft by creating new accounts in the victims’ name. You should never click on a link embedded in an e-mail from your bank. Scams often start with phony e-mails that feature the bank’s name and logo, but rather open a new webpage and enter the URL (web address), because scams often start with phony e-mails that feature the bank’s name and logo.

Not too many years ago most people shopped in their local stores complete with parking and weather problems, long lines, and wobbly shopping carts. Even when online shopping was available, people felt uncomfortable using their credit cards and giving their personal information to cyber-shops. That has all changed.

In the U.S. almost 250 billion dollars in online sales are expected by 2014. World-wide ecommerce sales will top one trillion dollars. A compounded growth of 10% is forecast for the next five years. The internet is only going to become more popular as time goes by and purchasers worldwide become more comfortable about the security and on-time delivery of their purchases.

When shopping online, make sure to use reputable sites. Often consumers are shown specials on the web, or even in e-mail offers, that look too good to be true. These sites are also used to capture personally identifiable information, including credit card numbers, addresses and phone numbers to make fraudulent transactions.

In St. Vincent and the Grenadines and other smaller and emerging states, the internet provides tempting access to electronic, fashion, and other consumer goods that are just not available locally. Tempting as many of these professionally designed sites may be, it’s best to shop on sites with which you are familiar or have been recommended to you, that have an established reputation as trusted online retailers and remember nothing else from today, remember that IF SOMETHING APPEARS TO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT PROBABLY IS

Tune in tomorrow for the next edition of Tech 5. This is Ben Harrison from EEZEE Radio 91.1 AND 102.7 on your FM DIAL in St. Vincent and the Grenadines