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Online Fakes: Can You Fake Them Out?

If you go online to look for love, a bargain or information, what you may find instead is trouble. With so much information available on the Internet these days, it can be extremely difficult to tell what's true and what's not.

So Regina Lewis, AOL's consumer adviser, visits The Saturday Early Show with advice on how to protect yourself from hi-tech fakes.

When you're online, there is no way to be sure that people are who they say they are. The types of sites where you always should be on your guard are those that involve social networking, dating, or reference sites that allow anyone to edit the information.

So how can you make smart decisions online?

  • Read the fine print. A popular function in some online shopping/dating/networking Web sites is a ratings system; see how other users have ranked the person in question. Any red flags? What about feedback or comments? Find out the Web site's policy on scammers. How do they do their policing? Can you report someone who violated the rules? How will they be punished — blocked access, termination of membership, reported to the authorities? Will they help you recover any financial losses? Search for the name of the person or business. See what you can find out there on the Web to back up their claims or prove them wrong.
  • Don't get personal. Never give personal, financial or other identifying information (full name, address, phone, Social Security number, etc.) to anyone you meet online. Don't forget that you are dealing with a stranger in a medium where it is easy to lie.
  • Don't get paranoid. The Internet is still a useful and valuable tool. Not everyone is out to get you Just be sure to use good judgment and play it safe.

    To visit Regina Lewis' own Web site, click here, or you can find her on AOL.

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