Dear Abby: You printed a letter recently warning your readers that ads for lost items placed in local newspapers might wind up on the Internet. The writer said that scam artists would contact them offering to return the item - after receiving money "to pay the shipping charges." This seems illogical to me.

Why is there a good chance that one's "lost" classified ad would be placed on the Internet? Who would do that? Certainly not the scam artist, who wouldn't want to share his source of income with anyone else.Didn't it occur to your letter writer to ask for a complete description of the lost item? Even if a scamster were able to provide a description of my "lost" wristwatch, I could always trip him up by asking, "Is it engraved on the back, `To my darling husband from Mary'?" When the scamster answers, "Yes," I'd then respond, "Then you found someone else's watch. Mine is not engraved."

Abby, it's pretty hard to be taken advantage of if you stay one step ahead.

- Dave Barry,

South San Francisco, Calif.

Dear Dave: Some newspapers that have online editions publish the entire contents on the Internet, including the classified ads. That's how someone's lost-and-found ad could reach a wider audience than the immediate neighborhood or city.

Your second point, however, is well taken. When people have lost a beloved pet or a treasured possession, they do not always think logically. The victims' desperation is what makes them vulnerable.

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1997 Universal Press Syndicate

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