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Cheap Software via Spam is probably a Scam
by Kim Komando


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Spam advertisements hawking popular software titles at bargain basement prices are flooding the internet. More often than not, it's literally a steal of a deal. Most of these deals are hawking counterfeit software.

In the early days, counterfeit software was created by a few hackers. Today, global organized crime gangs, including the Italian Mafia, Russian mob, Middle Eastern terrorists and Columbian drug cartels, are all taking part, according to executives from Microsoft and security experts. Using sophisticated methods, they create software nearly identical to the real thing.

Financially, they're reaping the rewards. the Business Software Alliance, which battles counterfeiting, says piracy cost software makers over $13 billion in 2002, the latest year available. The U.S. software industry alone lost over $6 billion.

How does it work?

Counterfeiters buy legitimate software and copy the box design, plastic wrapping and certificate of authenticity. Or they break into software distributing houses and steal the goods. Using expensive copiers, thousands of CDs are created in a day.

Websites are set up offering deals. Most sites are established overseas, far from U.S. law. You'll find traditionally expensive titles such as Microsoft Office 2003 or Adobe Photoshop at 60% to 70% under retail. To direct potential customers to the website, millions of inboxes are spammed.

In some cases, the spam looks like it comes from such legitimate sources as Amazon.com. But that is not the case. The criminals design the e-mails to make them look legitimate, down to return addresses.

A customer who buys such a program could get working software. But the industry says customers are more likely to receive non-working products, or perhaps nothing at all.

There is little recourse for customers who are cheated. If a website is maintained overseas, the money is probably lost forever. Complaints can be filed with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) and the Business Software Alliance (www.bsa.org), but customers shouldn't hold their breath.

Pirated software can do more than cost you money. According to Jenny Blank, director of enforcement for the Business Software Alliance, you don't know what you are getting when you buy pirated software. It sometimes can have bugs or viruses, and you could ruin your computer.

Pirated software has a detrimental effect on the economy, as well. More than 100,000 U.S. jobs and over $5 billion in lost wages can be attributed to counterfeiters, according to reseachers.

You can avoid falling prey to counterfeiters through 4 easy steps:

1. Read the advertisement carefully. Most counterfeiters operate overseas. Grammar and spelling are often substandard. If you notice spelling mistakes or awkward english, step carefully.

2. Too-good-to-be-true prices are usually just that. If you see $300 software selling for $20, chances are it's not legitimate.

3. Be leery of groups of products on one CD. For example, Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Word would never be sold together as a package.

4. Investigate the company selling the software. The Better Business Bureau keeps reliability reports on most companies. Avoid a company that has many unresolved complaints or doesn't list contact information on the website.

Learning how to avoid counterfeit software is important. It stops putting money into the pockets of criminals and keeps it in yours.

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Copyright 2005 WestStar TalkRadio Network. Reprinted with permission.
No further republication or redistribution is permitted without the
written consent of WestStar TalkRadio Network. Visit Kim Komando and
sign up for her free e-mail newsletters at: www.komando.com

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