request info email to friend
Internet Fraud at All-Time High
Americans lost more than $240 million to Internet scam artists in 2007, the highest total ever, according to the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center. Scammers used a variety of approaches to separate unwary Internet browsers from their cash.
Men were more likely to be scammed than women: Men lost an average of $765, compared with an average loss of $552 for women. And older people were victimized more heavily than younger ones: Scammers got an average of $385 from people in their 20s, but $760 from people over 60.
The most common losses were from auction fraud, in which a person made a purchase over the Internet, but when the item arrived, it was not what the buyer expected. Experts suggest that if you are making a purchase through an Internet auction, you either delay payment until you have received the item or you ask the seller to hold your payment in escrow. At the very least, make sure there is a mechanism for returning your item if it is not what you expected. And notify the online auction about the scam, so that they can take action against the scammer.
Other common Internet scams include:
Phishing. You receive an email that purports to be from your bank, credit card company, etc., saying that you need to update your account information. Sometimes the email includes some urgent message, such as a warning that your account will be closed unless you take action. The email looks legitimate, so you respond, giving important financial information such as your Social Security number and account numbers. You should not respond to these emails without checking first with your financial institution, no matter how official the email looks.
Confidence fraud. This includes some old favorites like the Nigerian money scam. You get an email from a person in a foreign country – not necessarily Nigeria. The person is exceedingly polite, and tells you that he has come into a large amount of money, but he needs your help in getting it out of the country. If you send him your bank account information, he will transfer that money to your account, paying you a substantial amount for your help. A similar scam involves a notification that you have won an overseas lottery and the sender needs your bank account information to send you the money. Despite the fact that these emails sound so unlikely, many people fall for these scams. In general, if it sounds like it is too good to be true, it most likely is.
Charity fraud. These emails can solicit money for any kind of charity, but they often ask for help for victims of a well-known disaster. These emails prey on the charitable instincts of Americans. The key is to make sure any charity is legitimate before you send money.