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The Top 5 E-Mail Scams

You've heard about them, you've seen them, perhaps you've been had by one: e-mail scams. Millions of people are cheated over e-mail every year. In 2005 alone, consumers lost nearly $14 million dollars to Internet scams. Sadly, that number is on the rise as crooks come up with new methods to get at your money and information. We capture five of the worst on the following pages.

Usually, scammers attempt to trick you into filling out forms on rogue sites. Rogue sites usually look legitimate (some are even replicas of legitimate sites you trust), but they are set up to spread a virus, collect names for spammers or grab your personal information. Other scams try to get you to reply to e-mails requesting your personal data like passwords and bank account numbers. Once you've given up the info, criminals can siphon your cash, make purchases and get out before you even have a chance to track them down.

To get you the best advice possible on each scam, we talked to Carol McKay of the National Consumers League. She offers up some tips you literally can't afford to miss.

Scam #1: Investment Pump & Dump

The Come-On
Everyone wants to be in on the ground floor when it comes to investing, so it's no surprise that millions of people go for this one: You receive an e-mail from someone claiming to be a power broker containing a hot tip on a penny stock that promises to double, even triple, in short time. So you go for it, only to see it tumble within hours. One such e-mail we received just this week looks like this:

Subject: Your 221.43% - breaking results

DarkLord: DWPI Hits The Street, Price Climbs 221.43%

Distributed Power Inc.
Symbol: DPWI Price: $0.40 (+0.31)

News hits the streets!!! DPWI acquires huge oil reserves, drills deeper on current wells increasing production, and now opens Asian division. Investors go nuts today and price rockets 221.43%. Act fast, read the news and get on DPWI first thing Tuesday!

The Scam

Turns out the people who send you the e-mail in the first place are waiting for a few people like you to get the stock up so they can get out before you even have a chance.

What You Can Do
Carol says: "Legitimate investments are risky, and legitimate brokers will admit that to customers. Be especially wary of offers that arrive via e-mail, offshore investments or commodities, and high-pressure sales tactics. And, if you can't afford to lose all your money, don't invest any of it."