In just a click, you can fall victim to one of the millions of fraud reports that happen every year in the United States. Do you know how to protect yourself? Internet fraud can occur in many different ways, such as paying for a product or a service online and never receiving it or getting something different than what you paid for. If you’re ever a victim of this or any other type of online fraud, it’s important to take action!
When you report fraudulent websites, you exercise your rights as a consumer and keep criminals at bay. Learn how to report fraudulent websites or online purchases using this easy step-by-step guide.
How To Report A Fraudulent Website Using The Internet
If you’ve been a victim of Internet fraud, we recommend taking the following steps:
Contact the seller
Internet fraud often takes place in fake online stores that pretend to sell products or services. The true purpose of these stores is to steal your identity or gain access to your banking information. Sometimes, these online shops sell counterfeit products, instead of the original merchandise, or subscription services that you pay for but are never able to access.
When this occurs, the first step is to contact the seller. Go back to the website where you made your purchase and look for the company’s customer service information. Once you have an email address, send them a message.
Your message should explain the nature of the issue and how you expect the company to solve the problem. You may also want to let them know how long you’re willing to wait for them to resolve the matter. You can also state that you plan to report the company for fraud if they don’t take care of the issue.
Be sure to include this information in your complaint:
- Your name
- Your order number
- The name of the product or service that you paid for and the serial number (if applicable)
- The date and time of your purchase
Don’t know where to start? Take a look at this sample complaint letter template from the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information website.
If the seller has a phone number, give them a call after sending a written complaint. Once you have an agent or a manager on the line, remember to take notes on what you discuss. It’s also important to keep a copy of any written communication between you and the seller.
Keep your receipts
Your purchase receipt is key to reporting a fraudulent event. If you have any additional evidence relevant to your purchase, such as an email confirmation, be sure to save that as well. It’s also a good idea to take screenshots of the website where you made your purchase.
Some products include a seller warranty. If you received a defective item, be sure to include a copy of your warranty in the complaint letter. If you’re able to speak with the company over the phone, have the warranty at hand to further back up your complaint.
Call your bank
Once you’ve been a victim of fraud, it’s important to avoid future fraudulent charges. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends communicating with your bank as soon as possible and filing a report of the incident. Upon receiving your report, the bank begins their own investigation. Following the bank’s investigation, the bank may reverse the charges and return the funds to your account.
If you used a credit card, transfer, or electronic wallet to make the payment, you may also request a copy of the transaction from your financial institution. This document can serve as proof of fraud when you file a report with the authorities.
Get legal advice
If the fraudulent seller does not respond to your complaint within a reasonable time, you may also seek legal advice. There are attorneys that specialize in protecting consumers from fraud.
If you need a lawyer recommendation and don’t know where to start, try reaching out to your local embassy or consulate. They may have a list of attorneys who can help in this type of situation.
Where To Report Internet Fraud?
With so many different types of fraud over the Internet, many consumers don’t know where to begin reporting a fraud. If you or someone you know has been a victim of scammers, get in touch with these recommended organizations:
Reach out to the authorities
The U.S. Government recommends filing an initial report to your local police department. Depending on the type of scam that you’ve suffered, the police will be able to guide you on next steps.
You may also be able to contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. While their focus isn’t just Internet fraud, this government entity does have resources to help and guide you.
Report frauds directly to Google
Some fraudulent websites get your personal information through scam emails. This practice is known as phishing, and it’s used to steal your identity or banking details.
Google has a dedicated website where you can report phishing in a private manner. To file a report, you just need to enter the website’s URL and, at your discretion, provide more details about the scam.
Contact your state consumer protection offices
Each state has its own Consumer Protection Offices. To find your local office, you must visit the federal government website.
With this directory, you’ll be able to find several state offices where you can file your complaint, including:
- Department of Consumer Affairs
- County and City Consumer Protection Offices
- Office of the Attorney General
- Department of Business Oversight
- Department of Insurance
- Department of Managed Health Care
- State Banking Department
- State Securities Commission
- State Public Service Commission
Reporting internet fraud through the FTC
The FTC is an independent government agency that aims to protect U.S. consumers. To help prevent scams, they have a dedicated website where you can report fraud. To file a complaint, you only have to answer a few simple questions.
Once you’ve completed the report, the FTC shares the details of the event with more than 3,000 law agents. They use this information to begin investigations against the scammers. At the same time, other government agencies also get access to these reports and could use them to find criminals.
Contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center
The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is a division of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) that studies online crime.
Although the IC3 does not investigate or resolve Internet fraud complaints, it keeps the public informed and works to help prevent this type of crime. That’s why it’s important to report internet fraud to the IC3. Agents utilize all complaints and reports to analyze scammers’ tactics and join efforts across agencies to reduce their occurrence.
Information Needed To File A Complaint
When you report internet fraud to any of the agencies mentioned, you help prevent future scams. Generally, the information you need to provide in your report is:
- Name of the victim
- Phone number
- Email address
- Details about the financial transaction
- Any information you may have about the possible scammers
- URL where the fraud occurred
- The headline or ad in any phishing emails
- Any other information that you consider important
The Consequences Of Filing A Report
When you file a fraud report, you help the authorities identify trends and prevent further crimes. Consumer complaints are key to state and federal investigations against scammers.
According to Consumer Reports, the U.S. government spends over $15 billion annually in cybersecurity. And the bulk of this budget is spent in consumer investigations. Their objective is to identify patterns that help eradicate these illegal practices.
Advice to Avoid Internet Scams
Anyone can be a victim of internet fraud.The techniques that scammers use are constantly changing, which is why it’s so important for you to stay on top of the current risks that consumers face. To avoid falling prey to these criminals, you must stay alert and be cautious of the websites that you visit. Remember that it’s always best to shop at reputable online stores and report any suspicious activity to the authorities.
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