We’ve all heard the old adage “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Thanks to a host of genealogy scam artists, some family historians have learned that lesson the hard way. Lured by Web sites and e-mails promising access to millions of genealogical records, they shelled out as much as $6o apiece to discover information they could have gotten for free. A good example is a string of Web sites, including Genealogy Techs <www.genealogytechs.net>, that offer either online subscriptions or CD-ROMs with links to “hundreds of databases.” Buyer beware: There’s nothing special about those links you could find the free databases just as easily by browsing Cyndi’s List of genealogy Web sites <www.cyndislist.com> or reading Family Tree Magazine‘s annual 101 Best Web Sites list. The owner of the scam sites has since been charged with several felonies. And although Genealogy Techs is still online, it no longer accepts payments.
You also should beware of anyone selling the “history of your family name” or “your complete family history.” A few years ago, a company advertised just that for about $40. Those who fell for the scam received paperbacks with only generic getting-started advice and a few telephone-book listings.
So how can you avoid falling victim to one of these scams? Trust your instincts. And if the service sounds shady, contact the National Genealogical Society’s Consumer Protection Committee (800-473-0060, <www.ngsgenealogy.org/comconsumer.htm>), which keeps tabs on online and offline scams.
From the September 2004 Trace Your Family History.