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Fight back: How to report an internet scam

Fight back: How to report an internet scam
© Carlosbcna | Dreamstime

Identity theft. Phishing. Spam. Malware. Sometimes the internet feels like the Wild West where you need to be ever vigilant about the world around you. Internet fraud is a growing problem, as criminals come up with new and clever ways to steal information and money. If you are the victim of an internet scam or suspect you’ve received a fake email designed to poach your personal information, you can take a stand for justice and report your experience. Here’s how to do it.

Visit the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center

Sometimes the unthinkable happens and you fall prey to an online scammer. Perhaps you lost money, a hacker violated your computer, or you paid for a fake product or service that was never delivered. It’s time to file an official report with the U.S. government through the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. The FBI defines an internet crime as “any illegal activity involving one or more components of the Internet, such as websites, chat rooms, and/or email.”

Don’t fall for this tax-time phishing scam. Check out the FBI’s warning here.

When you file a complaint, the FBI requests you share as much information as possible, including your name, address, telephone number, financial transaction details, and any information you gleaned about the person or party who scammed you. Be sure to hang onto any supporting evidence, including emails, receipts or chat transcripts. Gather all of this together before you submit your complaint to make the process easier.

FBI specialists will review your complaint and share information with the proper authorities, which may be federal, state or local law enforcement. The FBI notes, “Investigation and prosecution is at the discretion of the receiving agencies.” If your complaint is very time sensitive, then the FBI suggests you contact your local law enforcement directly.

Check in with the Federal Trade Commission

The FTC’s motto is “Protecting America’s consumers.” This protection extends to helping citizens report internet scams through its Complaint Assistant website. The site lets you choose from a wide range of categories, including identity theft, scams and rip-offs, unwanted telemarketing, mobile devices, and internet services. Pick the one that best fits your issue and the site will walk you through registering your complaint. The step-by-step approach is helpful and takes some of the sting out of having to deal with a scam complaint.

As with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center, the FTC will share your report with the proper authorities. If you're dealing with an international scam that extends outside of the U.S., then visit econsumer.gov to file a complaint.

Don’t let phishing scams off the hook

You’ve received an email that at first blush looks legitimate, but then you take a closer look and alarm bells go off. Earlier this year, people found messages in their inboxes promising a $50 bonus for submitting an Amazon product review. The email contained a malicious link asking for the recipient’s login credentials. This is just one of many convincing-looking phishing scams that have hit the internet.

So what should you do when you find one of these emails? In the case of the Amazon phishing email, you can report the issue directly to Amazon by forwarding the fake message to stop-spoofing@amazon.com. Most large companies, including Apple, Google, and eBay, have email addresses or customer-service webpages dedicated to exactly this sort of thing. These companies have the resources and incentive to investigate and fight back against scammers. A quick web search for “report phishing email to [company’s name]” should get you to the right place.

Not sure if that email is legit? See if you can spot the warning signs in this fake Netflix email.

Don’t become a victim. Learn how to identify the sneakiest scams.

From fake jobs to unscrupulous solicitors that come to your house, some scams are subtle, but you can still protect yourself if you know what to look for.

Click here to find out how these five clever scams are fooling even the smartest people.

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