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$25 Million in Nigeria? I'd be stupid not to do it.....

Luckily, I haven't had much experience with internet crime myself. Although, I have seen my share of 419 emails, (only on my U of M address, oddly enough), and other scams like that. I saw a lot of parellels in the ABC News piece on the 419 scammers between those scams and regular mail scams that work kind of the same way. I work at Your Exchange Check Cashing, and sometimes we get $2500 checks from people that came with a letter saying they won a lottery (that they never entered) and that the check their getting is a prepayment, so that they can send money back to the "lottery commission" and thus obtain the rest of their money. This scam could be a little more serious, however, as it could possibly make those who believe it an and try to cash the check accomplice to fraud. Although with the invention of the internet, more tools are at the scammers disposal, the scams aren't anything that new. As long as a series of numbers has controlled all our finances and identity, there have been people looking to steal those numbers. And as we can see from the Dhamija peice, there are plenty of people who don't pay much attention to these sites online.
In light of this, I try to be cautious whenever dealing with financial information online. I only shop online at sites I know or that are obviously bigger, more established stores. I try not to put much of my personal information online, and whenver I see emails looking for a bank account number, I disregard them.
Even though those in Nigeria are much poorer than we here in America, stealing is stealing. Therefore, I see what they do as being clearly unethical. In the case of Robin Hood, stealing from the rich and giving to poor, I see the same way. Taking excess from those who don't need it and giving it to those who do is something I see as justifiable, but its still stealing. And a key difference between Robin Hood and the 419 scammers is that the scammers aren't taking money from the CEO of Exxon or Bill Gates or someone with more wealth than they could ever hope to spend, but from some college kid or single mom or what have you, who's just trying to get by all the same.
In the same vein, altering information on Wikipedia couldn't be considered a crime as it isn't against the law. I would consider it unethical to change ones information to put yourself in a better light, like Gutknecht and the politicians in the Star Tribune article. However, the job of the politician is to make him or herself look good, so I can't say I'm terribly surprised. But I'm glad to know that there's a site that won't back down from pointing out hypocrisy in their statements. In the same respect I wouldn't consider Stephen Colbert a criminal, although possibly liable for any monetary damages to their servers.

Comments

I really agree with your points on the Robin Hood scenario. Although, to me stealing is wrong in any way, shape or form, but I think it would be much less of an issue of they were targeting high end CEO's who wouldn't even notice that type of money. Although that would be a bit better, in the end, I think it is still wrong.

Regarding those checks people get at the bank, I totally understand what you are talking about! I work at the bank and I see a couple of these come in once in a long while. A lot of times when people bring such large amounts to the bank, I ask them where they received it because a lot of times, people don't realize they are being scammed! It's much like the online scams.