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/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, e-mail, or fax is received by the victim.

Tips for Avoiding Internet Fraud

Preventative measures will assist you in being informed prior to 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 e-mail, a pop-up, or a website you've linked to from an e-mail or web page.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has additional 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: 

  • You can report a cyber scam or threat by filing a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). 

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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.gov 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:

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Phishing and Vishing

Phishing is a scam in which you receive a fraudulent e-mail designed to steal your identity or vital personal information, such as credit card numbers, bank account numbers, debit card PINs, and passwords. A phishing e-mail often asks you to verify this type of information. The e-mail may state that your account has been compromised or that one of your accounts was charged incorrectly, but you must click on a link in the e-mail or reply with your bank account number to confirm your identiy or protect your account.

Legitimate companies never ask for your password or account number via e-mail. The e-mail may even threaten to disable your account, if you don't reply, but don't believe it. If you receive an e-mail there are several actions you should take:

  • Don't click on any links in the e-mail. They can contain a virus that can harm your computer. Even if links in the e-mail say the name of the company, don't trust them. They may redirect to a fraudulent website.
  • Don't reply to the e-mail itself. Instead forward the e-mail to the Federal Trade Commission at spam@uce.gov.
  • If you believe that the e-mail is valid, contact the company using the phone numbers listed on your statements or in the phone book. Tell the customer service representative about the e-mail 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 to provided in the e-mail.
  • If you clicked on any links in the phishing e-mail or replied with the requested personal information, contact your bank directly to let them know and ask to have fraud alerts placed on your accounts, have new credit cards issued, or set new passwords.

Vishing

Similar to phishing, vishing scammers also seek to get you to provide your personal information. However, instead of using e-mail to request the information, vishing scammers use the phone to make their requests. 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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