Online Safety | USAGov

Internet Fraud Scam artists defraud millions of people each year by using internet services or software. These scams trick victims into sending money or giving out personal information. That’s why it’s important to protect yourself and to report internet fraud if you have been victimized. Types of Internet Fraud Understand […]

Internet Fraud

Scam artists defraud millions of people each year by using internet services or software. These scams trick victims into sending money or giving out personal information. That’s why it’s important to protect yourself and to report internet fraud if you have been victimized.

Types of Internet Fraud

Understand how these  common types of internet fraud work.

  • Data breaches occur when sensitive data (personal or financial information) is leaked from a secure location. Afterwards, it can be used in an untrusted environment at a corporate or personal level.

  • Malware is dangerous software that is designed to disable computers and computer systems.

  • Phishing or spoofing uses fake emails, text messages, or copycat websites to steal your personal information. It may steal credit card and bank account numbers, debit card PINs, and account passwords.

  • Internet auction fraud involves the misrepresentation of products on an internet auction site. Or, it can occur when merchandise isn’t delivered to a buyer by a seller online as promised.   

  • Credit card fraud occurs when scammers steal your  credit or debit card numbers to buy money or property.

Report Internet Fraud

If you believe you’re a victim of internet fraud or cyber crime, report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). Or, you can use the FBI’s online tips form.

Your complaint will be forwarded to federal, state, local, or international law enforcement. You will also need to contact your credit card company. Notify them if you are disputing unauthorized charges or if you suspect your credit card number has been compromised.

How to Protect Yourself from Online Fraud

Take these actions before browsing or shopping for products and services online: 

Do

  • Learn how to spot internet fraud by knowing the warning signs of common fraud schemes. These schemes include phishing or spoofing, data breaches, and malware.

  • Know your buyer or seller. If you don’t know who you’re buying from or selling to online, do some research.

  • Update your anti-virus software and anti-spyware programs. Most types of anti-virus software can be set up to make automatic updates. Spyware protection is any program that protects your personal information online from malware. If your operating system does not offer free spyware protection, you can download it from the internet. Or, you can purchase it at your local computer store. But, be aware of ads on the internet offering downloadable spyware protection which may be spyware itself. You should only install programs from a trusted source.

Don’t

  • Don’t give out your personal information to anyone you don’t trust. Never provide it in response to an email, a pop-up, or a website you’ve linked to from an email or web page.

  • Don’t keep your computer running all the time. Doing so will make it more prone to spyware and other attacks from hackers and identity thieves.

Phishing and Vishing

Scammers use a variety of methods to try to steal your personal and financial information. They use trusted logos of legitimate companies when sending email. Or, they pretend to be a family member or friend, so they can trick you into giving them sensitive information.  

What is Phishing?

In phishing, scammers use fake email, text messages, or copycat websites to steal your identity or personal information. Their goal is to get credit card and bank account numbers, debit card PINs, and account passwords. The scammer may say your account has been compromised or charged incorrectly.

When they contact you, scammers will tell you to click on a link in their email. Or, they’ll ask you to give your bank account number to confirm your identity or verify your account. Sometimes, they may even threaten to disable your account if you don’t reply. Don’t believe them. Legitimate companies never ask for your password or account number by email.

How to Protect Yourself from Phishing

Here are some ways to protect yourself from phishing scams:

Do

  • Contact the company if you’re unsure. Don’t call the number or use the links in the email. Instead, find their legitimate website or check a bill or account statement for contact information. Tell a customer service representative about the email and ask if your account has been compromised.

  • Turn on two-factor authentication. This involves accessing an account or website online using your password and another piece of information. This could be a code sent to your phone or a random number generated by an app. This protects your account even if your password has been stolen.

Don’t

  • Don’t click on any links or attachments in the questionable email. They may contain a virus that can harm your computer. Even if the links in the email say the name of the company, don’t trust them. They may redirect you to a fake website.

Report Phishing Scams

Forward phishing email messages to spam@uce.gov or file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Be sure to include the full email header of the fraudulent message. Learn how by searching online for the name of your email service and the words “full email header.”

What Are Vishing and Smishing?

Vishing (voice phishing) and smishing (SMS text phishing) are similar scams. Swindlers call or text, pretending to be with a company you know to steal your personal information. They may direct you to call a phone number to verify an account or to reactivate a debit or credit card.

Report Vishing and Smishing Scams

If you receive one of these requests, report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). They’ll forward it to federal, state, local, or international law enforcement. Also, contact your credit card company. Tell them if you’re disputing unauthorized charges made by scammers on your card, or if you suspect your card number was compromised.

You could also become a victim of identity (ID) theft. Visit IdentityTheft.gov to learn how to minimize your risk.

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