How to Report Online Fraud
I just got back from a very informative keynote discussion at ISPCON in Baltimore that I moderated with Howard Schmidt, the former Bush administration cyber-security czar (and once led security efforts at Microsoft and recently left his job as chief security officer at eBay).
Schmidt and I discussed a wide range of issues affecting Internet service providers and regular computer users, from the scourge of junk e-mail to phishing to what government can do (and can't do) to help solve some of the more pressing computer security threats.
One theme in particular that came up was what ISPs can do to share information about criminal activity with law enforcement. That got me thinking that it might be useful to point out a few resources where regular computer users can go to report Internet fraud.
The FBI runs the Internet Crime Complaint Center, which collects information about fraud cases that on their own may not rise to the level of full-fledged investigation but can help investigators link seemingly separate incidents of fraud to an individual or group. One or two cases of people getting ripped off to the tune of $500 isn't going to spur the FBI into action, but when investigators can gather enough evidence to tie many cases to a single group or entity, then the FBI can justify spending the time, money and resources needed to track down the perpetrators.
A few examples of things that might qualify for reporting would be if you (or someone you know) falls for a phishing scam, or if you win what turns out to be a fraudulent online auction. Something else to report is if you order something from an online business and the company either never makes good on the transaction or simply disappears with your money.
The Federal Trade Commission also has a list of resources for people who suspect they are the victims of identity theft, including helpful folks who staff a free hotline at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357.)
If you know of other agencies -- particularly state or local law enforcement offices -- that also collect information on Internet fraud, send me an e-mail or drop the information into our comments section.
May 25, 2005; 2:37 PM ET
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