Internet Fraud: The Year in Review

The 3 biggest Internet fraud trends of the year: Internet ScamBusters #70

We decided to focus this last issue of the year on the three biggest Internet fraud trends of 2003, as well as a look back at the scams we brought to your attention this year — an Internet ScamBusters ‘Year in Review.’ We’ll also recap the best Internet fraud resources we’ve shared with you in 2003.

Plus, we’ll show you two new resources that include excellent holiday safety tips.

Before we get going, we thought you’d enjoy two recent articles on Internet scams:

‘Online scams thrive during holiday season’
==> http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2003/Dec/08/bz/bz01a.html

‘Mugged by your machine: Internet criminals may reach you through brand names you trust’
==> http://www.jsonline.com/bym/News/nov03/187098.asp

OK, let’s get started…


Internet ScamBusters ‘Year in Review’


In our completely unscientific (but most likely correct) <g> opinion, the three biggest Internet fraud trends for 2003 are:

1. Phishing scams. These started in a big way in 2003 and are now a huge problem. They lead to lost money and, much worse, identity theft.

2. Scams involving selling cars and other vehicles online. International scamsters, counterfeit bank checks, and fraudulent escrow companies (both international and domestic) have resulted in big losses for auto — and other vehicle — sellers in 2003.

3. Nigerian fee scam. Although certainly not new, if you’ve been wondering if this scam really succeeds, an article in the Nov. 13, 2003, issue of the Daytona Beach News Journal called ‘E-mail scam nets $400,000 from Ormond man’ shows how one man lost his life savings.

And this year a new crop of these scams have inundated our e-mailboxes, including many aimed at ministers, churches and other religious organizations.

You’ll find more on these (and other) scams in our ‘Year in Review’ below:

For more information on any of these scams, simply go to our archives to find the issue:

==> http://www.scambusters.org/backissues.html

In January, we told you about Fraudulent Escrow Services that prey on folks buying high ticket items through eBay and other online auctions.

For expensive goods, many auctioneers and bidders use an ‘escrow’ system (meaning that the winning bidder sends the cash to a neutral third party — an escrow company — to be held, usually until the goods are shipped and the bidder is satisfied with their condition). The escrow company is supposed to be a neutral party to the transaction, and of course, there is a charge for this service. But some scamsters are taking advantage of this system to bilk bidders out of thousands of dollars.

January’s issue also brought you information about phony online college degrees, and how the promise of online romance can lead to spam.

Read more about these scams, and how to avoid them, here…

==> http://www.scambusters.org/Scambusters58.html

February’s issue of ScamBusters was all about computer viruses and how to avoid them. We also told you about when a virus isn’t a virus, but a hoax. Check out that info here…

==> http://www.scambusters.org/Scambusters59.html

In March, the U.S. was preparing to go to war — and we had to warn you about some despicable scams that played on people’s fears about that war, and a ‘worm’ that was created just for the occasion.

The March issue was loaded with other great info, too. We talked about how some job search sites might actually be clever covers for identity theft scams, and we told you about a counterfeit ‘cashier’s check’ scam; we did an update on the ‘Nigerian letter’ scam, and detailed a scam that looked like official letters from eBay and Earthlink. And ScamBusters itself was implicated in a scam about third-party endorsements!

Do you think all that activity was because ‘spring was in the air’? If you missed it, you can read the March issue here…

==> http://www.scambusters.org/Scambusters60.html

April’s issue of ScamBusters was a little thinner (are you thinking ‘Thank goodness’?) but we covered a pretty important issue nonetheless – and it continued in the June issue, too: The Top 10 Home-Based Business and Work-At-Home Scams and How to Avoid Them.

All of that information is still timely, and you can review it here…

==> http://www.scambusters.org/Scambusters61.html

and here…

==> http://www.scambusters.org/Scambusters62.html

In July, we switched tracks a bit and sent out some really important information about ‘phishing’ emails, supposedly coming from banks, Best Buy, and eBay. These scams are all aimed at getting you to hand over your personal information on an ‘official’ Web site, which of course was created by scammers.

Then we gave you 8 Tips on How to Protect Your Home While You’re Away, and closed the issue with a little humor based on the infamous Nigerian letter scam. If you missed it, you can read (or re-read) the July issue here…

==> http://www.scambusters.org/Scambusters63.html

ScamBusters also sent out a special publication in July with info on the Do Not Call Registry and a new Telemarketing scam. (BTW, we’ve noticed a remarkable drop in the number of telemarketing calls we’ve received since this law went into effect.) This issue is archived here…

==> http://www.scambusters.org/Scambusters64.html

By August, it was clear that scammers don’t take summer holidays, so we brought you a ScamBusters issue focusing on Avoiding Identity Theft at Work.

==> http://www.scambusters.org/Scambusters65.html

In September, we gave you 10 Ways To Reduce Spam, and listed several resources to help you weed out spam but still get the email you want. Check out September’s issue here…

==> http://www.scambusters.org/Scambusters66.html

October’s issue contained what we like to call ‘Snippets’… a bit o’ this and a bit o’ that about ‘phishing,’ Internet access service, and Web cramming scams.

We also told you about Credit Card Insurance Fraud, in which unsuspecting recipients get calls from ‘officials’ claiming that they need credit card loss protection and insurance coverage. These phony requests involve, of course, that you disclose credit card numbers, maiden names, and other personal financial information in order for them to ‘activate’ the protection feature for your credit card. You can see the October issue here…

==> http://www.scambusters.org/Scambusters67.html

We did an extra ‘Snippets’ issue on October 29, but our ‘snippets’ included a new lottery scam, the AOL ‘flower’ scam, and an update on the 809 scam. You can find this issue here…

==> http://www.scambusters.org/Scambusters68.html

And more ‘Snippets’ for the November issue: this time on the single biggest question we get on scams right now, auto scams, Russian email scams, and another email phishing scam. To refresh your memory, November’s issue is here…

==> http://www.scambusters.org/Scambusters69.html

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Internet resources we’ve told you about this year:

Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC):
==> http://www1.ifccfbi.gov/index.asp

TechTV’s Cybercrime Center
==> http://www.techtv.com/cybercrime/internetfraud/story/0,23008,3370664,00.html

U.S. Government Consumer Complaints
==> http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/

The FTC
==> https://rn.ftc.gov/dod/widtpubl$.startup?Z_ORG_CODE=PU03

Cybercrime Glossary
==> http://www.techtv.com/cybercrime/aboutus/story/0,23008,3363041,00.html

HOAXBUSTERS Home Page
==> http://hoaxbusters.ciac.org/

Symantec Security Response – Hoax Page:
==> http://securityresponse.symantec.com/avcenter/hoax.html

VMyths.com
==> http://www.vmyths.com/

Urban Legends Reference Pages: Computers (Viruses)
==> http://www.snopes.com/computer/virus/virus.htm

Canada’s RCMP Phone Busters program
==> 1-888-495-8501

How to find trusted charities
==> http://www.charitablegift.org/resource/05_t3_eval_charities.shtml

Consumer Reports No Commercial Use Policy
==> http://www.consumerreports.org

Monster.com’s Be Smart page
==> http://help.monster.com/besafe/

Monster.com Article: ‘Protect Your Personal Info’
==> http://resume.monster.com/articles/personalinfo/

~~~

Two new resources with excellent holiday safety tips

As we enter the Holiday Season, The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reminds consumers that the holiday season should be merry and bright — not dangerous.

Avoiding hazards such as dried out Christmas trees, unsafe lights and unattended burning candles could prevent thousands of injuries, and even save lives.

Take a moment to read their ‘Tips to make your holiday a safe one’ at:

==> http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml03/03049.html

and ‘Holiday Decoration Safety Tips’ at:

==> http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/611.html

Finally, you can find some excellent tips on home security for the Christmas Holidays at:

==> http://www.crimedoctor.com/home_security_3.htm

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It’s been quite a year. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all for supporting Internet ScamBusters. We wish you and your loved ones a safe, healthy and happy holiday season — and a scam-free New Year.