Online Fraud Prevention

The modern world of technology provides online users the opportunity to visit websites, communicate with others and shop without the need to leave your computer. However, with the conveniences come more concerns that we all need to be aware of. With the increased usage of online sources, have come threats such as identity theft, credit card fraud and other online fraud.

Identity Theft

One of the biggest threats of using online technology, including online shopping, is Identity Theft. Identity Theft occurs when an online visitor leaves personal information on a website. This can happen when shopping or signing up for a product or service. The information can include name, address, email address, date of birth and social security number. Depending on the information that is left on the website, criminals that illegally access the site can possibly use the information to assume your identity for loans, credit cards and other illegal uses.

Online Scams

Today online scams can occur in many different methods. One of the more popular scams involves people selling items on online sites. The way the scam works is that a large item such as a car is placed online for sale and a criminal responds saying that they will send a cashiers check to the seller, and arranges for the transfer. When the check arrives it is for too much money and the criminal apologizes and asks that the over payment be wired back to them. The seller does it, then after the original check is deposited, it is found to be a fraudulent check and bounces. Leaving the seller out the money they wired to the criminal.

Email scams

The e-mail scam has been around for many years and has taken different forms. One of the most famous scams is the "Nigerian Scam", where an email is sent saying that they are royalty in Nigeria and that they have funds in a U.S. account that they need to access. However, they claim that they are unable to get these funds and need help. The recipient are asked to wire funds to the foreign sender and of course are not able to get the money out of the fictitious account. The e-mail scam has taken many different forms, but are essentially the same type of scam.


Phishing has become of the more recent online frauds that have surfaced. The way phishing works is that an e-mail is sent from a notable company saying that there is a problem with the recipients account. They are asked to go to a specific URL and confirm the information. When the recipient goes to the website, it is a spoof site which looks legitimate, but goes to a fake site. If the recipient puts in their information, it does not go to the company, but instead goes to a criminal who can use the personal information for identity theft.

Credit Card Fraud

With the increase in the amount of online shopping being done today, one of the biggest fraudulent concerns is credit card fraud. There are several ways that shoppers are at risk of being a victim of credit card fraud. They include sending information through insecure connections, sending information to fake websites, listing personal and credit card information on insecure forms and having credit card information stolen and compromised at the merchants' servers. One way to protect yourself is to only use well-known websites for buying merchandise and ensure that if you are putting your personal financial information on a website, it is a secure connection.

Avoiding Online Scams

1. Don't send money to someone you don't know. That includes an online merchant you've never heard of - or an online love interest who asks for money or favors. It's best to do business with sites you know and trust. If you buy items through an online auction, consider a payment option that provides protection, like a credit card. Don't send cash or use a wire transfer service. And don't pay upfront fees for the promise of a big pay-off - whether it's a loan, a job, or prize money.

2. Don't respond to messages that ask for your personal or financial information, whether the message comes as an email, a phone call, a text message, or an ad. Don't click on links or call phone numbers included in the message, either. The crooks behind these messages are trying to trick you into sending money and revealing your bank account information. If you get a message and are concerned about your account status, call the number on your credit or debit card - or your statement - and check it out.

3. Don't play a foreign lottery. First, it's easy to be tempted by messages that boast enticing odds in a foreign lottery, or messages that claim you've already won. Inevitably, you'll be asked to pay "taxes," "fees," or "customs duties" to collect your prize. If you send money, you won't get it back, regardless of the promises. Second, it's illegal to play foreign lotteries.

4. Keep in mind that wiring money is like sending cash: once it's gone, you can't get it back. Con artists often insist that people wire money, especially overseas, because it's nearly impossible to reverse the transaction or trace the money. Don't wire money to strangers, to sellers who insist on wire transfers for payment, or to someone who claims to be a relative in an emergency (and wants to keep the request a secret).

5. Don't agree to deposit a check from someone you don't know and then wire money back, no matter how convincing the story. By law, banks must make funds from deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. You are responsible for the checks you deposit: When a check turns out to be a fake, you'll be responsible for paying back the bank.

6. Read your bills and monthly statements regularly - on paper and online. Scammers steal account information and then run up charges or commit crimes in your name. Dishonest merchants sometimes bill you for monthly "membership fees" and other goods or services you didn't authorize. If you see charges you don't recognize or didn't okay, contact your bank, card issuer, or other creditor immediately.

7. In the wake of a natural disaster or another crisis, give to established charities rather than one that seems to have sprung up overnight. Pop-up charities probably don't have the infrastructure to get help to the affected areas or people, and they could be collecting the money to finance illegal activity. Check out to learn more.

8. Talk to your doctor before buying health products or signing up for medical treatments. Ask about research that supports a product's claims - and possible risks or side effects. Buy prescription drugs only from licensed U.S. pharmacies. Otherwise, you could end up with products that are fake, expired or mislabeled - in short, products that could be dangerous. Visit for more information.

9. Remember there's no such thing as a sure thing. If someone contacts you promoting low-risk, high-return investment opportunities, stay away. When you hear pitches that insist you act now, guarantees of big profits, promises of little or no financial risk, or demands that you send cash immediately, report them at

10. Know where an offer comes from and who you're dealing with. Try to find a seller's
physical address (not just a P.O. Box) and phone number. With VoIP and other web-based technologies, it's tough to tell where someone is calling from. Do an internet search for the company name and website and look for negative reviews. Check them out with the Better Business Bureau at