The internet has provided consumers with more transaction and business offerings than ever before. An individual can bid on a luxury item and a business owner can advertise to a global market at a click of the button. As a consumer you must be aware that internet scams are as varied and abundant as the legitimate offerings on the internet.
We've listed some of the most common internet scams and some ways to identify them. For more detailed information on internet scams, please see the Federal Trade Commission website.
There are very few of us who have never received unsolicited offers through email, better known as SPAM. For many fraudsters, the objective of spamming is to gather personal information that can be used to steal your money and/or your identity. Criminals may also send you attachments and links that will lead you to spoof sites or cause you to inadvertently download harmful software to your computer.
Never send your personal information to an unknown source via email. Criminals may try to entice information out of you by stating that an offer is only good if you buy now or give them your information immediately. No legitimate business would deny you the time to check out their claims. If you do not know the source of an email, delete it. Even if a co-worker or friend you trust sends you a link or attachment such as in an email chain, it may be infected. Keep your computer firewall, anti-virus, and anti-spyware software up to date.
Lottery or Sweepstakes Scam
Lottery and Sweepstakes scams are on the rise. Scam operators are using email, telephone, fax and direct mail to trick U.S. consumers into believing they have won large sums of cash through foreign lotteries. The details of the lottery scams vary with regard to the name of the lottery itself, the country of origin, the sponsoring organization, the amount of the prize and other particulars. Scammers will add a layer of legitimacy to their claims by mentioning real financial institutions, government agencies or well-known companies.
The scam begins with a notice that you are the winner of a lottery or sweepstakes that you did not enter. You may be asked to provide banking details, a large amount of personal information, and copies of your driver's license or passport to prove your identity and to facilitate the transfer of your winnings. If you comply with these requests, the scammers will have enough information to steal your identity. In order to receive the winnings, you must first pay a small percentage for fake taxes or other fees. The scammer typically instructs the victim to wire advance fees through Western Union. Once the money is transferred, the scammer moves on or in some cases comes back to request additional funds but the "lottery winnings" never appear.
Legitimate lotteries or sweepstakes will not require payment to receive the winnings. Do not respond to emails/letters/faxes that claim you have won money. Never give out your confidential personal or bank account information to anyone claiming to hold your "winnings." Participation in foreign lotteries is against the law.