Internet fraud crimes fall into several categories: pharmacy (fake or diluted medicine), identity (use of your name, address or social security number to take your money), financial (offenses that result in a financial loss), auction (failure to deliver the purchased item), sweepstakes/lottery (promotions that require you to pay to play or to receive your winnings), counterfeit payments (fake cashier’s checks or money orders), and software piracy (selling unauthorized or fake software). There are probably more fraudulent schemes being invented at this very moment.
I wish there was a technology-related solution that would protect all of us from this onslaught of criminal activity, but there’s not. Primarily because it’s based on human interaction…the technology is only the tool used to commit the crime. According to the Website www.lookstoogoodtobetrue.com: “An interesting point about fraud is that it is a crime in which you decide on whether to participate. Hanging up the phone or not responding to shady mailings or emails makes it difficult for the scammer to commit fraud. But con artists are very persuasive, using all types of excuses, explanations, and offers to lead you — and your money — away from common sense.”
So much for the doom and gloom…now what can we do to avoid being a victim of Internet fraud? We must become familiar with the criminal enemy and their tactics, be vigilant to their presence, and continue to enjoy the good parts of the Internet. A great source for us to get smart on this problem is www.lookstoogoodtobetrue.com which was developed and is maintained by a joint U.S. federal law enforcement and industry task force including the US Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internet Crime Complaint Center, the National White Collar Crime Center, Monster Worldwide, Inc., Microsoft Corporation, the National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance, Target Corporation, and several others. It’s free and it’s a great tool to educate yourself about Internet fraud so that you can avoid becoming a victim. It contains a list of types of fraud, victim stories, frequently asked questions and tips, consumer alerts, a teen center, and the ability to file a complaint with several authorities. You can even take an assessment test that lets you know how much at risk you may be, based on your computing and Internet practices.
This is a very dangerous and complex Internet we use today. Organized crime groups from all over the world are trying to take our money through scams such as the Nigerian banking scheme, pyramid schemes, charities fraud, advanced fee scams, debt elimination schemes, job scams, and even romance schemes.
We must arm ourselves against this myriad of potential pitfalls by educating ourselves, being aware, and most of all, using our common sense…if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Remember, home computing is a blast…keep it productive and enjoyable.