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Web Ruses

It bears repeating: Today's information technology can be used to enlighten, or deceive. Vigilance is the password.

Take, for instance, the growing incidence of Web sites purposefully named to confuse them with other sites. The operators of these look-alike sites can grab traffic, and even snag e-mails, intended for the folks at the legitimate site. All it takes is for some unsuspecting person to type a ".com" when a ".org" is required, or drop a punctuation point, or forget to make something plural.

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Partisan or industrial espionage may be at work. Or maybe the creator of the look-alikes just wants to collect as many "hits" as possible on his site.

The best defense: knowing the address you want and making sure your fingers do too.

Web trickery of a different sort may have been at work in the recent, highly publicized case of a site that purported to offer "a unique opportunity to bid on the eggs of beautiful, healthy, and intelligent women."

Supposedly, couples who want to be assured of physically attractive children might be interested - with bids starting around $50,000. But hold on. Does anyone really believe beauty can be guaranteed by choosing an egg donor with a pretty face?

Beyond that basic question, it soon came out that the site's operator runs a number of soft-porn sites on the Web. His chief interest, very likely, was to generate all the "hits" he could to boost advertising sales.

The best defense against this kind of thing? Discernment, moral reasoning, and good old common sense - which are just as useful in cyberspace as anywhere else.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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