Internet use is escalating in the United States, and Internet fraud is escalating along with it. An investment opportunity that seems to be "too good to be true" usually is - and all is not what it seems on the web.
The web site www.McWhortle.com tells all about McWhortle Enterprises and a product called the "bio-hazard detector."
The site claims the little machine is small enough to fit in your pocket, and can detect even the tiniest bio-hazard from a great distance. The web site says sales have soared as a result of the recent anthrax scare, and, now, the company is selling stock to the public.
The web site contains what it says are positive endorsements from consumers, and tape of an interview with company President Tom McWhortle.
ANNCR "Welcome to CEO spotlight on the web. I'm your host John Harvey. We're talking live with Tom McWhortle, CEO and president of McWhortle Enterprises. Tom, I understand your company is about to go public."
MCWHORTLE "Yes, we are. Given what's been happening in the past few months, we've got more orders than our assembly line can handle. This will be the first time we raised money from public investors. It's a sure winner."
It is also a fraud. There is no "McWhortle Enterprises." But that hasn't stopped hundreds of thousands of web site visitors from clicking on the spot where it says "If you want to invest, click here."
Fortunately, the McWhortle web site is a fake fraud. Securities And Exchange Commissioner Harvey Pitt says the Web site was created by the U.S. government to demonstrate to the public how careful people have to be on the Internet. "www.McWhortle.com was based on actual Internet scams that we have investigated and shut down," he said. "This [web site] promises unbelievable investment returns - 400 percent in three months! Unfortunately, there are real scams out there that make similar promises and real people who fall for them."
Mr. Pitt says those who visit the Web site and try to invest in McWhortle Enterprises are treated to a page of sound financial advice. "Guaranteed returns aren't [guaranteed]. Check out the company before you invest," said Harvey Pitt. "If you are being pressured to invest in a once in a lifetime deal that just can't miss, say 'no.' If you don't understand an investment, don't buy it. The crooks figured out a long time ago how to separate people from their money. It's about time that we used the same tactics to fight back."
Illustrating his point, Mr. Pitt says more than one million people have tried to buy stock at the McWhortle Web site.