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Top Online Scams

Posted at 3:15 PM, May 15, 2013

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GRAND RAPIDS,Mich. — The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) released a report this week detailing the top internet criminal activities in the United States. BBB is shining a light on this report as a reminder that continual awareness, education, and vigilance is required to avoid being the victim of fraud.

  •  Auto Fraud: Vehicles are promoted for sale on online platforms, often below market value. The crooks claim they must sell the vehicles quickly because they are relocating for work, being deployed by the military, or have a tragic family circumstance and are in need of money.The criminals refuse to meet in person or allow inspection of the vehicles prior to the sale.  The criminal instructs the victim to wire full or partial payment to a third-party agent via a wire transfer service, and to fax the payment receipt to the seller as proof of payment. The criminal pockets the money but does not deliver a vehicle. In a new twist, the criminals have attempted to pose as dealers instead of individuals selling a single car. This allows them to advertise multiple vehicles for sale at one time on certain platforms, potentially exposing more victims to the scam.
  •  Rental Scams: Criminals search websites that list homes for sale and take information from legitimate ads and post it with their own e-mail addresses on Craigslist® (without Craigslist’s consent or knowledge) under the housing rentals category. To sweeten the pot, the houses are almost always listed with below-market rental rates. An interested party will contact the “homeowner” via e-mail, and usually explain that he or she had to leave the United States quickly because of some missionary or contract work in Africa. Victims are usually instructed to send money overseas-enough to cover the first and last month’s rent-via a wire transfer service (scammers often believe money cannot be traced once it gets picked up on the other end). Renters might also be asked to fill out credit applications asking for personal information like credit history, Social Security numbers and work history. The scammers then use this information to commit identity theft.
  • Scareware/Ransomware: Victims reported they received pop-up messages alerting them that their computers were infected with numerous viruses. The pop-ups, known as scareware or fake or rogue anti-virus software, cannot easily be closed by clicking  “close” or the “X” button. The scareware baited users into purchasing software that would allegedly remove viruses from their computers. If the users clicked on the pop-ups to purchase the software, forms to collect payment information appeared and the users were charged for the bogus products.  A more malicious version of ransomware freezes computers and warns of a violation of U.S. federal law. To intimidate the user further, the message declares the user’s IP address was identified as visiting child pornography and other illegal content. The user is instructed to pay a fine to the U.S. Department of Justice using prepaid money card services in order to unlock the computer. The malware continued to operate on the compromised computer and could be used to commit online banking and credit card fraud.
  • Romance Scams: Perpetrators use the promise of love and romance to entice and manipulate online victims. A perpetrator scouts the Internet for victims, often finding them in chat rooms, on dating sites and even within social media networks. These individuals seduce victims with small gifts, poetry, claims of common interest or the promise of constant companionship. Once the scammers gain the trust of their victims, they request money, ask victims to receive packages and reship them overseas or seek other favors. These cyber criminals capitalize on the vulnerabilities of their victims. This crime not only affects the victims financially, there are emotional and mental implications as well.
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