Online Safety

Be aware of these scams when you're online.

Internet Fraud

Scam artists in the U.S. and around the world defraud millions of people each year by using the internet to trick victims into sending money or giving out personal information.

Types of Internet Fraud

Internet crime schemes target victims using various methods:

  • Internet auction fraud - This scheme involves the misrepresentation of a product advertised for sale on an internet auction site, or non-delivery of merchandise.   
  • Credit card fraud - Through the unauthorized use of a credit or debit card or card number, scammers fraudulently obtain money or property. 
  • Investment fraud - This is an offer using false claims to solicit investments or loans, or providing for the purchase, use, or trade of forged or counterfeit securities.
  • Nigerian letter or "419" fraud - Named for the violation of Section 419 of the Nigerian Criminal Code, it combines the threat of impersonation fraud with a variation of an advance fee scheme in which a letter, email, or fax is received by the victim.

Tips to Avoid Internet Fraud

Take these measures before entering into transactions over the internet:

  • Know your seller - If you don't know who you're buying from online, do some research.
  • Protect your personal information - Don't provide it in response to an email, a pop-up, or a website you've linked to from an email or web page.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has more tips to protect yourself and your family from the various types of internet fraud.

Report Internet Fraud

If you believe you've been a victim of internet fraud or cyber crime, report it: 

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Online Security and Safety

While the internet makes many everyday tasks faster and more convenient, like shopping, banking, and communicating on the go, it's important to be safe, secure, and responsible online. 

Protect Your Privacy and Security

You can protect your computer and personal data from theft, misuse, and destruction with some basic precautions:

  • Scams - Learn how to recognize scams and what you can do to avoid them.
  • Computer and online security - Defend yourself against scammers, hackers, and identity thieves by protecting your information and your computer while online. If you are a parent, you should also talk to your kids about being safe and responsible online.

Visit OnGuardOnline for more tips on being safe and smart online.

Report Cyber Crime

If you believe you have been a victim of an internet-related crime, you can file a report with these government authorities:

  • The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) refers internet-related criminal complaints to federal, state, local, or international law enforcement. 
  • accepts complaints about online and related transactions with foreign companies.
  • The Department of Justice (DOJ) helps you report computer, internet-related, or intellectual property crime to the proper agency based on the scope of the crime.

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Phishing and Vishing

Phishing is a scam in which you receive a fraudulent email designed to steal your identity or personal information, such as credit card numbers, bank account numbers, debit card PINs, and account passwords. The email may state that your account has been compromised or that one of your accounts was charged incorrectly. The email will instruct you to click on a link in the email or reply with your bank account number to confirm your identity or verify your account. The email may even threaten to disable your account if you don't reply, but don't believe it.

Legitimate companies never ask for your password or account number via email. If you receive a phishing email there are several actions you should take:

  • Don't click on any links in the email. They can contain a virus that can harm your computer. Even if links in the email say the name of the company, don't trust them. They may redirect to a fraudulent website.
  • Don't reply to the email itself. Instead, forward the email to the Federal Trade Commission at
  • If you believe that the email is valid, contact the company using the phone numbers listed on your statements, on the company's website, or in the phone book. Tell the customer service representative about the email and ask if your account has been compromised. You can also contact the company online by typing the company's web address directly into the address bar; never use the links provided in the email.
  • If you clicked on any links in the phishing email or replied with the requested personal information, contact the company directly to let them know about the email and ask to have fraud alerts placed on your accounts, have new credit cards issued, or set new passwords.


Similar to phishing, vishing scammers also seek to get you to provide your personal information. However, vishing scams use the phone to make their requests, instead of email. You may be directed to call a phone number to verify an account or to reactivate a debit or credit card. If you have received one of these calls, report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

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Last Updated: May 10, 2017

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