Monday, July 31, 2006

There's a Reason They Call it Caveat Emptor

I never took Latin in school, and my kids think I look old enough to have been going to school when that was the 'only' language they spoke in school. That said, you don't have to know Latin to know that the phrase caveat emptor gives one the feeling of and a message of "watch out"!

So, what does that have to do with the space within which
operates? The answer lies in a story that showed up in a recent issue of Information Week that carried the headline "FBI Warns Job Hunters of Online Scams."

In reading through the story, written by K.C. Jones of TechWeb, it struck me that I have heard stories about job seekers be scammed almost ever since I can remember. Even though I am well aware that this stuff still goes on and note that there is a very well worn path on this subject that shows up in our online member forums that our members use to exchange information and ideas, nonetheless, almost a day doesn't pass where I don't get a call from someone who has been ripped off by some firm that is selling smoke and snake oil to someone full of the fear and anxiety caused by the pressure of wondering if they are going to be able to make the mortgage payment next month.

Fortunately, more and more of the members we hear from are contacting us BEFORE they have written a check, and one of the reasons I think is the degree to which people are using the "net" to share experiences and to warn each other. For those who may not be aware, there is also a website called RipOff Report that I have watched grow over the years. The good news is that it is there, the bad news is that it is so packed with visitors that sometimes you have to come back to do a search, although the last time I went to the site they said they were pounding forward on some improvements which would speed up the wait time.

I guess we all have seen the segments on 20/20, Dateline, 60 Minutes, and other magazine shows over the years, and every now and again they do a segment on one of these outfits that continue to pray on the vulnerability that comes when people are under enormous financial and emotional stress.

It can get very, very sad. I recall many years ago a fellow in Florida (and this was long before the Internet) who had been burned (and emotionally scarred) so badly by one of these companies that he literally devoted the rest of his life to trying to discredit the crooks and help people who had been victimized by them.

One wonders in this day and age how it is that really "smart" people can continue to be conned into this stuff, but they are. Maybe ole P.T. was more right than wrong, I don't know, and I am certainly not among those who might be looking for Uncle Sam to get more involved in anything,(heaven forbid!) but when I see this sort of thing going on for as long as it has, it certainly drives home the reason that regulators get involved.

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