Internet scams are a fast-growing problem. The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) states that online scam reports rose 22.3 per cent between 2008 and 2009, with total losses of £363.8 million. Savvy Internet users often recognise scam hallmarks, which include generic greetings, odd return e-mail addresses and links, requests for money or personal information and demands for immediate action, according to the Pennsylvania attorney general. They can help others avoid the same scams by reporting them before deleting the messages.
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Fill out the form on the Consumer Fraud Reporting website. Law enforcement agencies focus on cases in which people are harmed financially. They are not interested in attempted fraud, but Consumer Fraud Reporting compiles lists of common scams and warns people about them.
Forward scam e-mails to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at firstname.lastname@example.org. The FTC explains that it maintains a database of attempted online scams and provides information to law enforcement agencies to help victims.
Notify web hosts and e-mail companies that scammers are using their services. Consumer Fraud Reporting explains that free e-mail providers shut down scam accounts if you report them. Forward the relevant e-mails, including the headers, if you know how. Report scam websites to the hosting companies, which you can find through checkdomain.com or other lookup services. E-mail providers and web hosts have contact information on their websites.
Report attempted Internet scams that impersonate legitimate companies or banks to the actual businesses, Consumer Fraud Reporting recommends. Scammers often pretend to be financial institutions or well-known online businesses such as eBay or PayPal. Find contact information on the company's website and forward the scam correspondence to its fraud department.
Enter any telephone numbers linked to attempted Internet scams into fraud warning databases such as Who Calls Me and 800 notes. These sites let you explain how the numbers are being used to defraud people. People who search for them online will find your warning through search engines.
Tips and warnings
- If you are actually victimised by a scam and lose money or property, you should file a report with the IC3, which is a joint venture by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the National White Collar Crime Center and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
- You may need a police report if your identity is stolen through an Internet scam. The FTC warns that the credit bureaus will only put a fraud alert on your credit reports for 90 days unless you have a police report, which lets you extend it to seven years. Talk to the state police or attorney generals' office if your local department does not want to take a report.
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- Internet Crime Complaint Center: 2009 Internet Crime Report
- Pennsylvania Attorney General: Ask the Attorney General: How can I avoid the "Second Chance" scam on eBay?
- Consumer Fraud Reporting: How to Report a Fraud or Scam
- Federal Trade Commission: Spam
- Federal Trade Commission: Defend, Recover from Identity Theft