Internet Scams

Scam..Internet..Computers. Many calls received by this relatively small police department involve some type of victimization of a resident over the computer. The Internet has been a fairly standard part of our vocabulary here since the early-mid 1990s and there are many of us that can recall that dial-up sound as we were amazed that one could actually read a book from a library halfway across the world, while in the comfort and safety of our home. It sure did not take long for scammers and confidence artists to take advantage of the general public using this amazing technology.

The different scams out there are varied and some are quite inventive. Most are retro-fitted from old cons to now work with computers. One of the most popular is the sometimes named, “Nigerian Bank Scam”.  In the Nigerian or “419 Scam”, an email is received that states the person is attempting to “free” a million or more out of Nigeria, with commentary about the sender trying to liberate themselves as well. The recipient of the email is asked to provide their bank information, and other pertinent information so the person can wire the money there, thus hiding it from the Nigerian government. A finder’s fee would be forthcoming. Obviously, the scammer will soon liberate any money in the unwitting recipient’s account. Many do not report being scammed as they feel as though they were doing something illegal.

In an “Advance Fee Scam”, an unsuspecting computer user receives an email from someone claiming to have a check worth whatever amount, but typically 5-10 thousand. Unfortunately, they are in England or China, etc. They ask if you would deposit the check and send them a percentage, keeping some for yourself, thus helping you both out. Obviously, the check is worthless and you are out whatever you mailed off. This has been used against unsuspecting people for many years, and the use of computers have sped up the process and allowed for many more victims to be selected, the scammer “playing the odds” that out of thousands, a few might actually send the money.

Internet Auction Scams- Typically, this is found with Ebay and the similar online auctions. Although some of the companies have many rules and regulations in place to help guard against fraud, it still exists and the age old, “Let the Buyer Beware” still is as crucial today as always. The best advice I can offer is to know as much as you can about how the auction works and gleen as much information regarding the security and guarantees offered.

If you are the victim of an Internet fraud, it is an Interstate Commerce Crime, enforced by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. You can email them athttp://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx

A longer and more descriptive list of scams appear on the FBI webpage,http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud/internet_fraud, as well as some precautions to take when “surfing”.

And, as always, please feel free to call on us if you have any questions.

-Chief Warn

March 25, 2011