Everyday of the year is Christmas for the criminal in today’s cyber-world. With technology making fraud and scams look more legitimate, it’s upon everyone’s shoulders to protect themselves from both online and offline business offers.
Here’s my shortest bullet-point list of things to know in order for you to be proactive in protecting not only your financial assets, but your online reputation as well.
Scam artists in the U.S. and around the world defraud millions of people each year by using the Internet to trick victims into sending money or giving out personal information.
Types of Internet Fraud
Internet crime schemes target victims using various methods.
- Internet auction fraud – This scheme involves the misrepresentation of a product advertised for sale on an Internet auction site or non-delivery of merchandise.
- Credit card fraud – Through the unauthorized use of a credit/debit card, or card number, scammers fraudulently obtain money or property.
- Investment fraud – This is an offer using false claims to solicit investments or loans, or providing for the purchase, use, or trade of forged or counterfeit securities.
- Nigerian letter or “419” fraud – Named for the violation of Section 419 of the Nigerian Criminal Code, it combines the threat of impersonation fraud with a variation of an advance fee scheme in which a letter, e-mail, or fax is received by the victim.
Tips for Avoiding Internet Fraud
Preventative measures will assist you in being informed prior to entering into transactions over the Internet.
- Know your seller – If you don’t know who you’re buying from online, do some research.
- Protect your personal information – Don’t provide it in response to an e-mail, a pop-up, or a website you’ve linked to from an e-mail or web page.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has additional tips to protect yourself and your family from the various types of Internet fraud.
Report Internet Fraud
If you believe you’ve been a victim of Internet fraud or cyber crime, report it:
- You can report a cyber scam or threat by filing a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
Scam artists use different types of fraud to try to trick people out of their money. Two common types of fraud are banking scams and investment scams.
Popular banking scams include:
- fake check scams, where a scam artist creates counterfeit checks that look legitimate, with watermarks, routing numbers, and the names of real financial institutions. They then try to deposit them in banks, use them as part of other frauds against consumers, or use them to pay companies for products or services.
- unsolicited check fraud, where a scammer may send you a check that you didn’t have a legitimate reason to receive. Unfortunately, if you cash it, you may be authorizing the purchase of items you didn’t ask for, signing up for a loan, or something else you didn’t ask for. The Federal Trade Commission offers tips to help you avoid being a victim of these scams, and recommends what to do if you have been a victim.
Investment scams prey on your hope to earn interest or a return on investment on the amount of money that you invest. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) offers overviews of many common investment frauds, and tips to avoid being a victim.
If you are the victim of an investment fraud, you can file a complaint with the SEC or with your state’s securities administrator.
Not all organizations that claim to be charities or help people are reputable. Some scam artists set up fake organizations, taking advantage of the public’s generosity immediately after a tragedy or major disaster. Some tips to help you detect common charity scam tactics:
- Check out the charity before you give with the attorney general or the Better Business Bureau.
- Don’t be pressured to give to an organization.
- Don’t assume that you can get a tax deduction for donating to an organization. Use the IRS’s database of 501(c)3 organizations to find out if it has this status.
- Verify the name. Fake charities often choose names that are similar to well established charities or use keywords that elicit sympathy, such as “children”, “cancer”, or “disaster relief”.
- Don’t send cash. Pay with a check or credit card.
If you suspect charity fraud, report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Although the Do Not Call Registry doesn’t apply to charities, you can ask an organization not to contact you again.
About the Author: Anthony L Semadeni has been consulting with business owners over the past decade, helping them understand the complexities of business marketing and brand awareness in the Internet age. Through his company, Business Checkup, he helps protect owner and business brand reputations. For more information, please visit www.onlinereputationmanagement.info or call 719-309-4499. Tony can be found at: www.tonysemadeni.com