CYBERCROOKS ARE BUSILY setting up shop on the Internet. And one of their most popular new scams, according to the National Consumers League, is the time-dishonored pyramid scheme--in which a mark is gulled into parting with ``investment'' money by promises of riches and signs up other chumps. Then the con artist vanishes.

Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission shut down such an alleged fraud. Something called Fortuna Alliance had a home page that promised profits of more than $5,250 per month in return for a $250 investment. Some who fell for it set up their own home pages to entice new recruits. The FTC says the scheme took in $6 million-plus. The agency brought a civil action against two people, who it says fled the country.

The Consumers League, an independent nonprofit group, says small-business owners are big targets. They often pay up front for computer gear or Net services such as Web-site design. The goods sometimes don't materialize.

A lot of con jobs are billed as hot business opportunities. With one, you pay $3,000 to $16,000 for the privilege of selling software packages that, among other things, help Junior find college scholarships. Too bad you earn nowhere near the promised $4,000 per month.

Amy Barrett


Updated June 14, 1997 by bwwebmaster
Copyright 1996, Bloomberg L.P.
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