War Scammers Launch Major Assault

Playing Cards:Samir abd al-Aziz al-Najim, senior member of Ba'ath party AP / CBS

While American soldiers were battling on Baghdad, another campaign was playing on patriotism back home.

"It's really unusual, out of a three week war five distinct types of scams basically come out of nowhere," Tom Bartholomy of the Better Business Bureau tells CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers.

War related consumer scams may have come out of nowhere, but now they are everywhere, many on the Internet. One of the most popular involves those cards the Department of Defense issued to troops featuring members of the Iraqi regime. So-called "real" decks are selling at thousands of Web sites, which the Pentagon finds curious since only a small number were actually made.

"At this point there's only 200 cards out there so I'm sure they are being given out fairly judiciously," said Lt. Col. Dave Lapan of the Department of Defense.

Moreover, cards that command hundreds of dollars on Web sites, can be downloaded off the Pentagon's Web site for free.

On another front, Mike Cox, Michigan's Attorney General, a former Marine, is trying to shut down a company offering to donate a commemorative coin to a soldier for each one you buy.

"He's obviously playing on emotion, playing on legitimate patriotic feelings, playing on empathy for people, young men and women overseas in order to make a buck in his sleazy trade," says Cox.

Consumer advocates believe the long wait for war gave con artists more time to hone their pitches. So when the bombs began falling, the scams were ready to roll.

"It just makes you furious," says Kip Cozart.

Cozart who runs a Web design firm in Charlotte, North Carolina, was targeted by crooks using an old pitch with a new twist. Like the infamous Nigerian letter scam, the e-mail he got was supposedly from a rich Iraqi family needing help getting millions of dollars out of the country, in exchange for a cut. But all the crooks really wanted was access to bank accounts to move his money out.

"There are people across, overseas that are putting their lives on the line so that these scam artists have the freedom to send this trash through your e-mail," says Cozart.

Which means consumers will have stay on their guard, long after the war has been won.
  • Sue Chan

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