Millions of people each year are duped by internet fraud. Even the most tech savvy can fall victim to a scammer.
Phone and postal mail scams continue to be used by criminals, but here we'll explore the different types of internet fraud and how it can be prevented.
Scammers typically use different variations of four types of fraud: Internet auction fraud, credit card fraud, investment fraud and Nigerian letter or "419" fraud.
Internet auction fraud involves popular auction sites, like eBay, as well as other websites that offer products for sale, like Amazon or Craigslist. This scheme involves the misrepresentation of an advertised product or non-delivery of purchased merchandise.
To prevent this kind of fraud, work with legitimate websites that offer some kind of buyer protection, like Amazon and eBay. You'll have to be more careful with free-for-all sites like Craigslist or yard sale social media groups. If possible, pay with a credit card using PayPal or similar service and if exchanging in person, do so in a public place. Police departments are often more than happy to be this place and the location often deters criminals.
Credit card fraud, like in the real world, is the unauthorized use of a credit or debit card or card number. Criminals use this information to purchase products or services or pull money from bank accounts.
Investment fraud uses false claims to solicit investments or loans. Scammers can also sell, use or trade forged counterfeit securities.
One of the more well-known scams is the Nigerian letter or 419 scam. This scam combines the threat of impersonation fraud with a variation of an advance fee scheme in which a letter, email or fax is received by the victim. Simply put, the scammer pretends to be someone with access to a lot of money and claims that you can have it so long as you pay fees to cover the transfer.
In all cases, protect your identity and don't provide sensitive information to strangers over the internet. Legitimate businesses will never ask for you to transmit this kind of information in something as unsafe as an email.
If you believe you've been a victim of internet fraud or other cybercrime, file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) here.