Joey, the 13-year-old, placed a phone order to dirtcheapcigs.com, where his total order, shipping included, totaled $49.17. The phone salesperson took Joey's word he was old enough to buy cigarettes.
All that the site asked for was a confirmation on "his" credit card, and it then provided him with an order number. (Although he used a credit card belonging to a consumer affairs employee, the person at the other end of the line did not ask why he was using a woman's name.) Dirtcheapcig.com shipped the two cartons of Kools within a week.
Fenton, Mo.-based Dirtcheapcig.com was one of the companies named in a similar sting run by the Michigan Attorney General's Office. The case is pending.
Fred Teutenberg, who owns the Web site, says his company verifies every credit-card number, and since you have to be at least 18 to have a credit card, that keeps kids from buying cigarettes. He claims the only minors buying are those involved in the stings.
"I think our system works," says Teutenberg. "I think we are successfully stopping kids from buying on the Internet. I think we might have stopped this sale, except it was the contrived measures the city of New York employed."
Such Internet stings may be making companies like Teutenberg's more cautious. Of the three Internet orders Hunter witnessed, only one company shipped the cigarettes: cigoutlet.com of Richmond, Va., which sent three cartons of Kools ordered by Joey.
A cigoutlet.com representative told Good Morning America the company tries to prevent minors from ordering, but "if kids want to get cigarettes, they'll find a way."