Internet fraud and online scams are just two of the ugly downsides of the Information Age. The advent of the Internet has impacted just about every facet of life, and crime has not been left out. Fraudsters, scammers and flimflam artists are constantly prowling in cyberspace; in the United Kingdom alone, statistics related to Internet crime reveal that more than $25 billion were lost to online scams in 2012.
According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), recovering money lost to an Internet scam can be extremely difficult, particularly when the funds have been sent overseas via commercial money transmitters such as Western Union. In essence, getting money back would require a reversal of the wire transfer, which is almost impossible when the funds have been claimed by the recipient.
Not all Internet scams involve wiring money overseas. In fact, most instances of online fraud are perpetrated by offenders who pose as legitimate merchants. Acts of deceptive trade and fraudulent commerce fall under the purview of consumer protection and law enforcement agencies at the state and federal levels; this means that consumers can get relief in some situations.
Filing Consumer Complaints
One common Internet scam consists of perpetrators offering goods or services that they do not intend to deliver. For example, a person interested in buying auto parts for a Toyota truck may complete an online transaction using a credit card; if the parts are never shipped, the buyer can take the following steps:
– Identify the purchase by collecting all available evidence. This would include receipts of the transaction, credit card statements, messages sent to the merchant, a screenshot of the website, etc.
– If the alleged scammer claims to operate within the same state as the buyer, the attorney general’s office may be able to help through its own consumer protection task force or agency. This would entail filing a complaint and providing the agency with the evidence collected.
A joint effort between law enforcement, prosecutors and the courts may lead to a judicial order to recover funds held by scammers for the purpose of returning them to victims.
In some cases, consumers enjoy added protection when they use their credit cards. The issuer may offer assistance with the investigation or they may reimburse the cardholder with some of the funds lost. Some companies even offer additional insurance for cardholders who pay a monthly fee.