Computer Crime Research Center


Computer task force combats online crimes

Date: May 13, 2008
By: Frank C. Girardot and Amanda Baumfeld, Staff Writers

A faltering economy, rising foreclosure rates and an increase in computer use make up the ingredients of a perfect storm for Internet con artists, authorities and experts said.

The 36-count criminal complaint filed last week against 30-year-old Pardeep Singh of Covina is emblematic of the growing number of scam artists taking advantage of an increase in home computer usage.

"With the way the economy is right now, it makes people more desperate to go with cheap deals and might encourage other people to turn to crime," said Lars Perner, an assistant professor of clinical marketing with the Marshall School of Business at USC.

Perner, an expert in marketing and consumer behavior, said Internet scams prey on the vulnerability and gullibility of their victims.

"It's like they say: `If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is,"' Perner said.

In the Singh case, detectives claim the deal was so good that 33 families responded to an ad on Craigslist offering a three-bedroom home near Covina for rent at $1,200 per month.

Prosecutors say Singh took $2,400 from each family before he fled. Other allegations against Singh include an elaborate eBay scheme selling non-existent Las Vegas time shares.

He is also suspected of fleecing a business associate for $185,000. Singh remains at large. If convicted on all counts he could be sentenced to more than 100 years in state prison.

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