Internet fraud is extremely prevalent today. Records indicate the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reports they received close to 300,000 complaints of online fraud in 2015, representing an average of almost 800 per day. Close to half of the victims who reported internet fraud also reported some type of financial loss, averaging $8,421 per person. This data is startling.
Anyone can fall prey to internet fraud, but the elderly are at higher risk. According to the IC3, close to 40 percent of all internet fraud victims were over the age of 50. This age group is also the one with the highest number of victims who lost over $100,000 to internet fraud schemes.
It is not likely that everyone is just going to completely stay off of the internet, but it is important to proceed with some important safety measures in mind, to become familiar with some common types of scams and to be proactive in avoiding being taken advantage of by fraudsters.
Some of the most common internet fraud schemes involve:
Fake credit report websites – Per the law, everyone is entitled to one free copy of their credit report once per every 12 months. AnnualCreditReport.com is the only government approved website for ordering your free copy of your credit report. Despite this, the internet is overflowing with imitator sites who will claim to offer a free credit report and attempt to collect your personal information, including social security number and date of birth. You can avoid this scam by not responding to emails or clicking on social media ads or pop-up ads that offer a free credit report. Go through the government authorized site to get your free copy.
Dating websites – Online dating sites offer a great way to meet new people, but unfortunately, fraudsters take advantage of people and use these sites to find their victims. According to the FBI, dating site scams have resulted in the largest amount of financial loss over any other type of internet scam. Fraudsters develop online relationships with victims, gaining their trust and then asking them for money for a personal emergency. To help minimize your chance of falling victim to a dating website scam, do not hesitate to completely cut any type of contact or communication with anyone who asks you for money or asks you for any personal financial information. It is also important to file a report immediately for any type of suspicious behavior that you think could potentially be part of an internet fraud scam.
Security warnings – Fake pop-ups warn you that your comouter is at risk or has been infected by some type of virus. The pop-up will encourage you to click on it and download security software as soon as possible. Some of these scams will involve an attempt to get you to buy some type of softward, ultimately charging you for something fraudulently, while others will encourage you to download software that will in turn steal your private stored information. The best way to avoid this is to protect your computer with authentic anti-virus software from a reputable company, such as Norton.
If you fall prey to a scam or almost do, it is important to file a report with the IC3, so an analyst from the IC3 can review and research the complaint and send out information to law enforcement and regulatory agencies. Talk to your loved ones about these scams and help them to avoid them as well.