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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.

By Brian Krebs  |  May 25, 2005; 2:37 PM ET
Categories:  Fraud  
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The FTC and FBI sites allow you to file a complaint only if you've been scammed. I'm looking for a place to report attempts? We need to stop these activities before thay have been successful, not after.

Posted by: Tom Leonard | May 27, 2005 1:45 AM | Report abuse

I don't understand this kind of mentality, not until the crime is committed will these agencies get involved. I have received obvious attempts to scam for personal information, but nobody cares until after they have succeeded. If a masked man with a gun is standing outside a bank do you wait until he shoots someone and leaves with the money before somebody calls the cops? I would not.

Posted by: Mark Potter | May 27, 2005 11:20 AM | Report abuse

I agree with both of the above posters. Not a week goes by that I don't receive at least two phishing scams. The firms whose names are used to set the hoax in motion do not offer a direct means to report the scam and law enforcement in general and the FBI in particular do not seem to realize the importance of cutting off the source before the problem gets out of hand.

Posted by: Chuck Ring | May 28, 2005 11:55 AM | Report abuse

When I receive a pfishing attempt, I forward it to "" or "abuse@"whatever bank from which I have "supposedly" received a notice asking for Password, etc. information. These forward's do not usually bounce (and if they do, I then use "customer service@". I do not always receive a response, but often receive a "thank you" and "we don't ask for information like that on line". I don't know what they end up doing with the information, but at least I feel like I have done something.

Posted by: Pat Henderson | May 31, 2005 12:09 PM | Report abuse

I agree that it would be more useful of the FBI and the FTC collected information about attempted phishing scams. Lately, I have been receiving phishing emails that are trying to collect my PayPal account information. I forward the emails to PayPal and to the address of the FTC. So far, I hear back from PayPal but nothing from the FTC. Also, my email provider (Yahoo!) doesn't seem to allow me to forward the phishing emails to them for action; their antivirus software rejects the emails!

Posted by: Perry Godwin | May 31, 2005 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Hi! I get a lot of obvious scam e-mails asking me to accept millions of dollars from the accounts of deceased relatives, Nigerians and others. I just want a simple e-mail address to forward these like the addresses from eBay and PayPal to send scam e-mails. There must be some agency where these can simply be sent without any complicated complaint forms. Do you know of such an e-mail address? Thank you! David,

Posted by: David Eberhardt | July 24, 2005 9:46 PM | Report abuse

The address you link to in "Internet Fraud Complaint Center" is incorrect. You link to That is unreachable. works.

It turns out to be a useless site as it only has links to numerous private sites with no method to report phishing scams to the authorities.

Sincerely ,

Posted by: Dave | September 30, 2006 3:25 PM | Report abuse

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