There are two types of thieves out there: those who steal stuff in person, and those who “hide” behind the cloak of the Internet, the telephone or the written letter to commit fraud. In a weird way, you could say that those who hide behind a website or a phone call may be more dangerous than those who steal in person. While it’s true that a person who robes a bank or a convenience store may be armed, once they commit a single crime they are typically either caught or they stop while they are ahead (there are so many times you can get away from crime scene). For those who choose to do fraud over the Internet or the phone, though, it can sometimes be much harder to catch them because not everyone out there knows fraud when they see it. Since people who commit online crime tend prey on people who aren’t savvy to the scams in the first place, it’s realistic to believe that the victim isn’t going to be able to recognize that a fraudulent act took place until it’s too late. This is why it’s so vital to report fraud the moment that you realize it is occurring.
When it comes down to it, we all have an idea of what fraud sounds like when it happens over the phone. Typically we think of someone calling an elderly man or woman and telling them that they have won a trip somewhere and all they need to do is put a small deposit down, or they won a prize and need to get their bank account number to send it to them. The reason why elderly men and women are typically targeted in these types of fraud is that they don’t just tend to be more trusting, but they sometimes don’t have enough quick savvy to pick up on fraud until it is too late. While phone fraud still occurs here and there, some criminals have turned to the Internet because it allows those who commit fraud even more of a “cloak” to hide behind.
The days are gone when the only Internet fraud you had to worry about was the “King of Nigeria” writing you to say you have won a cash prize and he needs your bank account. While some of that still exists (check your SPAM folder), most criminals have moved onto bigger and better online options such as legitimist looking online shops and “help” centers. Criminals have gotten really good at making their fraudulent ways look pretty darn realistic. This is why it’s important to always know where you are buying from and make sure that they are on the up and up.
So what happens when you have been taken advantage of online or through the telephone? The first thing that you should do is contact your local police. It’s always a good idea to report fraud to the proper authorities, whether it cost you $10 or $10,000. Even if they aren’t able to do anything right away to get your money back, they can use that info down the road to launch an investigation against the perpetrators and possibly get you the money that you are owed down the line.
Once you have let the local police know, you need to report fraud cases to companies, institutions and individuals who may be affected by said fraud. If fraud occurred directly on your credit card, or they got your credit card numbers, you need to make sure that you contact them ASAP. They may be able to track down any charges that were made, or at least stop any future charges from occurring. Simply canceling that credit card can help you immensely down the line. In addition, make sure that you contact any bank that you are currently doing business with so that they what happened, and so that they can look out for any charges down the line.
Depending on what kind of fraud occurred and what kind of laws were broken, there are some additional sources that you should contact immediately. It never hurts to contact the FBI regarding your experience, as the evidence that you have may be used to help track down the perpetrators on a Federal level. Many individuals who commit fraud on a national level may already have an open case with the FBI. No matter how good these individuals may think they are the FBI has a tendency to get their man more times than not when it comes to fraud. Other national organizations that you should consider contacting when you report fraud includes the National Consumers League’s Fraud Center, Internet Fraud Complaint Center, the Better Business Bureau, the Securities and Exchange Commission and even the Secret Service
In addition to these “official” avenues, you should also report fraud to non-traditional avenues as well. If you feel like you were taken advantage of in a way that people need to know about, contact your local newspaper or television stations to see if they can get the message out to the masses. In addition, post messages on websites that are dedicated to letting people know about fraudulent sites out there. You would be surprised to learn how many people check these sites before they do business with websites
A word of warning, though: fraud is a big charge to level against a company or an individual. There is a difference between not getting a package on time, or not getting the quality that you think you deserve, and an individual stealing money or information from you. If you have issues with a company not giving you what you ordered on time you can let people know about your experience, but don’t say that they committed fraud against you. People have a tendency to be a little loose with their terminology when it comes to online review sites, but don’t be one of those people who claim that everything that goes against you is fraud. Reserve the “F” word only for situations where it should be used.
Filed under: Fraud Prevention
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