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 it didn’t turn out to be what you expected? Did you provide a product or service and didn’t get paid? Did you divulge personal information, or send money to someone you don’t know?
List of Steps to Report Online Fraud
Whatever the reason, being scammed 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
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 charges of criminal fraud. Give them a chance to figure out that it would be much easier for them to just be honest.
Report the incident 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 the incident to Internet Fraud Watch
Go to the Internet Fraud Watch website and click on the “Online complaint form” link. The Internet Fraud Watch was created by the National Consumers League, 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 specifically deals with web sites. 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 their 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 in which 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 a website is used as part of the fraud process, go to the ICANN website and do a WhoIs look up. Unless the owner has private registration, this will reveal who owns the site and where it is hosted. Make a note of all relevant information.
Contact the web hosting company and let them know that they are enabling scammers by hosting the site. Inform the company providing them with web hosting that if they continue to provide the dishonest party with web service, their company may be charged as an accomplice in a criminal action.
Connect with other victims
Use a search engine to find message boards and discussion forums that might be interested in your problem. You might find that many other individuals have been ripped off by the same company and you may be able to initiate a class action lawsuit or at least learn how others are dealing with the problem.
In your attempt to punish the dishonest party, it is very important to stick with the facts. Don’t exaggerate or make false accusations. If you exaggerate, they could turn around and file a lawsuit against you for false advertising against them, or for character defamation.
Keep your actions focused on solving the actual problem. If you begin contacting the dishonest party or other parties related to them with information or accusations not related to the actual problem, you could be charged with harassment.
However, you cannot be charged with harassment for frequently contacting a party in an effort to get a product or service that you paid for and didn’t receive, or to get paid for a product or service that you have provided.
Questions and Comments
If you have any questions or comments about how to report online fraud, please post a message below. Also, learn more about other Frauds, Scams and Schemes.