The rise of the Internet and online commerce provides many benefits to businesses and consumers alike, with convenience being one of the main ones. Along with the benefits come potential liabilities, and internet fraud schemes are on the rise according to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI. In their “2009 Internet Crime Report,” the IC3 reported an increase in crime reports of 22.3%, with 336,655 being received by them. These statistics show consumers are unaware of who to trust when online and how to detect scammers.
Variety of Crimes
The largest category of internet crime for 2009 was for non-delivered merchandise or payment. This includes auction sites, craiglist.org and scam company websites. To prevent this sort of crime from occurring, consumers should check the credibility of the website before providing any personal information. For a company website that is unfamiliar, one red flag is the lack of a physical address or phone number listed on the “Contact Us” page. Unknown websites with overseas addresses should be approached with caution as fraudsters might be out of reach of your country’s law enforcement and court system if there is a problem.
Identity theft is the next largest category of internet crime. In this scam, dummy websites or emails lure consumers to provide credit card or social security information in order to use that person’s identity to purchase products or withdraw cash from bank accounts. Emails from major banks may arrive to your inbox, claiming that you must log in order to fix a security flaw or other urgent matter. When you visit the site and enter your login information and password, the scammer records the keystrokes and can now access your accounts. Call your bank and verify the email first. Many of these websites or emails have glaring grammar and spelling mistakes, which is a sure sign that the text was not written by a reputable entity.
Network Solutions provides a WHOIS lookup which shows the registered owner of any domain name, including address. This can help spot some scammers, although this information might be out of date if the registrant moves their physical address and fails to update their data. When a company presents itself as being based in the United States, but the WHOIS lookup reveals the domain owner lives in Europe or Asia, this may be indicative of fraud and further exploration is necessary.
- A search engine query using the website’s URL and the word “scam” can prove useful for detecting fraudsters.
- Offers which sound too good to be true or that come via pop-up ads or spam email should be avoided.
- Offers of free products that normally cost hundreds of dollars are a sign of a scam seeking to get you to provide personal information or download malicious software. Once the software is downloaded, hackers can access your personal information and even remotely control your computer and spy on your activities.