Were you ripped off online?
If you’ve been ripped off on the web, this article explains how to report online fraud to the proper authorities. It includes a step-by-step method to force dishonest individuals or businesses on the internet to deal with you fairly, or at least how to cause them so much pain that they wish they had.
Most people and businesses on the web are friendly and honest, but many are dishonest and fraudulent. Did you pay for a product or service and didn’t receive it, or did it not turn out to be what you expected? Or did you provide a product or service, and the customer didn’t pay you? Did you divulge personal information or send money to someone you don’t know?
Here are a few types of scams you may encounter:
- Products and/or services not provided or shipped
- Counterfeit products and/or services
- Credit report harm
- Cryptocurrency scams
- Fake charity or charitable event
- IRS tax-related schemes
- Order confirmation scams
- Relatives in trouble and need money
- Real estate rental fraud
- Social Security scams
- Tech support scams
List of Steps to Report Online Fraud
Whatever the reason, being a victim of a scam online can be painful and embarrassing. Follow the steps below to investigate the fraud and file a complaint.
First, gather as much information about the dishonest party as you can. Get names, addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers. Download copies of chat transcripts, make screenshots of profiles, copies of emails, etc.
Let them know you’re taking action.
Then, let the fraudsters know you’re taking action. This step is optional but may help you resolve the issue without additional hassle. Inform the dishonest party that you intend to take action against them if they do not solve the problem equitably and honestly and that that action will include criminal fraud charges. Give them a chance to figure out that it would be much easier for them, to be honest.
Report Online Fraud to the FBI Internet Fraud Complaint Center
Go to the FBI’s Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC) website, locate the type of fraud that most closely matches your situation, and click on the “File a Complaint” link to fill out an online form. The IFCC provides a convenient and easy-to-use reporting mechanism that alerts authorities of a suspected criminal or civil violation.
Report fraudulent incidents to Internet Fraud Watch
Go to the Internet Fraud Watch website and click on the “Online complaint form” link. The Internet Fraud Watch of the National Consumers League is the oldest nonprofit consumer organization in the United States.
Also, if you’re dealing with a business, report the fraud to the Better Business Bureau Online website. BBBOnLine is the arm of the Better Business Bureau that deals explicitly with websites. The BBB contacts the business involved in the dispute to see if they want to work it out amicably. When a company has a lot of complaints at the BBB, it will affect its rating.
Contact the Attorney General’s Office
Use a search engine to find out how to contact the Attorney General’s Office of the state where the dishonest party operates. Then file a complaint. If your complaint involves fraud, this could result in criminal charges against them.
Lookup the Domain and Hosting Company
If the thieves a website as part of the fraud process, go to the ICANN website and do a WhoIs lookup. Unless the owner has private registration, this will reveal who owns and hosts the site. Make a note of all relevant information.
Also, contact the web hosting company and let them know they are enabling scammers by hosting the site. Inform the company that provides the web hosting if they continue to provide the dishonest party with web service. Their company may be liable as an accomplice in a criminal action. However, be careful of making legal threats without consulting with an attorney.
Connect with other victims
Use a search engine to find message boards and discussion forums that may want to help with your problem. You might find that the same company has ripped off many other individuals, and you may be able to initiate a class action lawsuit or at least learn how others are dealing with the problem.
If you need to report a fake Amazon email, forward the email to email@example.com. Then, add the email address to your spam blocker and delete it.
- Order Confirmation Scams come from phone calls, text messages, and emails. Often, the messages refer to an unauthorized purchase. Then, the scammers ask you to urgently confirm or cancel the purchase. Next, the fraudsters will try to convince you to provide payment or bank account information, install software on your computer/device, or purchase gift cards. So, how do you protect yourself? If you receive this type of correspondence regarding an order you weren’t expecting, verify orders by logging into your Amazon account. Only legitimate purchases will appear in your order history. Also, if you need help, Amazon Customer Service is available 24/7 to assist.
- Tech Support Scams involve scam artists who create fake websites and claim to provide tech support for devices and Amazon services. Customers who visit the web pages may be tempted to contact the thieves, thinking it is a legit website. Instead, go directly to the help section on Amazon.com. Remember, legitimate Amazon websites contain “amazon.com” such as “amazon.com/support”
To punish the dishonest party, it is imperative to stick with the facts. Don’t exaggerate or make false accusations. If you exaggerate, they could file a lawsuit against you for falsely accusing them of character defamation.
Keep your actions focused on solving the actual problem. If you begin contacting the dishonest party or other related parties with information or accusations unrelated to the problem, you could be charged with harassment. However, they cannot charge you with harassment for frequently contacting a party to get a product or service you paid for. Or if you didn’t receive or get paid for a product or service that you provided.
Don’t fall for the false sense of urgency. In almost every case, scammers try to get you to act immediately. They play on your fear to get you to react before thinking through the situation.
Questions and Comments
Please post a message below if you have any questions or comments about how to report online fraud. Also, learn more about other Frauds, Scams, and Schemes.