Online security and safety
Scammers may try to use the internet to steal your personal information or trick you into sending them money. Learn how to stay safe online.
Report cyber crime
If you believe you're a victim of an internet-related crime, report it to these government authorities:
- The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) takes internet-related criminal complaints. After receiving a complaint, IC3 sends it to federal, state, local, or international law enforcement. In addition to filing an IC3 complaint, contact your credit card company. Let them know about unauthorized charges or if you think a scammer stole your credit card number.
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) shares consumer complaints and online scams with all levels of law enforcement. While the FTC can’t resolve individual complaints, it can tell you the next steps to take.
- EConsumer.gov accepts complaints about online shopping and e-commerce transactions with foreign companies.
How to protect yourself online
These tips can help you keep your computer and personal information safe when going online:
- Keep your computer software updated. Download the latest versions of your operating system, web browsers, and apps.
- Don’t use the same passwords for multiple accounts. Try to make your passwords unpredictable and avoid using names, dates, or common words. Never share your passwords with anyone you don’t trust.
- Don’t give out personal information over unencrypted websites. Only trust encrypted sites that begin with “https” (the “s” means they’re secure). They convert your information into a code that prevents exposure to potential scammers.
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.
Understand the Types of Internet Fraud
These are the most common examples of internet fraud:
- Phishing or spoofing involves the usage of fake emails, text messages, or copycat websites to commit identity theft. Or it can be used to steal personal information, including credit card and bank account numbers, debit card PINs, and account passwords.
- Data breaches occur when sensitive data (personal or financial information) is hacked into, leaked, or posted from a secure location by accident. This information may be used to steal identities or commit financial fraud.
- Malware is dangerous software that is designed to disable computers and computer systems.
- Internet auction fraud involves the misrepresentation of products from 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 fraudulently acquire credit or debit card numbers to obtain money or property.
Report Internet Fraud
If you believe you're a victim of internet fraud or cybercrime, 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.
Protect Yourself From Internet Fraud
Take these actions before browsing or shopping for products and services online:
- 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 could result in the theft of your information. You should only install programs from a trusted source.
- 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.