The internet has brought so many positive changes to the world. It’s hard to remember what life was like before the World Wide Web, but one thing is for sure: Everything was much more complicated. With that in mind, there are also some negative effects of the internet that are sadly less talked about. One of these is how easy it has become for scammers and crooks to commit felonies online without getting caught.
Being a land of endless possibilities, the web is naturally also a land of endless risks. From hacking to data fraud, from fake institutions to the dark web, the virtual world has it all. However, keeping away from these threats is not as complex as it may sound, and even if you’ve fallen victim to them – there are legal ways you can fight back.
This crime has been around pretty much as long as the internet exists. The name ‘phishing’ is derived from its phonetic similarity to ‘fishing’, since the scammer baits a victim into giving sensitive information that can be used for extortion, fraud, or theft. The crooks disguise themselves, usually as a trusted source like a government institution or as someone the victim is familiar with. Next, they approach the victim via email or chat, and fool the victim into providing information like their bank account number, credit card data, passwords, etc.
Avoiding these scams demands only one thing: caution. Any form of communication received online should be examined carefully. Take a look at the email address, for example, and see if it has any typos. If something looks suspicious, you can always call up the sender and ask them if they tried to contact you. If you have fallen victim to a phishing scam, don’t panic. Cancel your credit cards, change your passwords, and report any transactions falsely made in your name.
One thing victims of phishing tend to undermine is their ability to bring the crook to justice. These fake emails you have received can sometimes be tracked by cyber experts, as well as any purchase or transaction made under your name, after the identity theft. These hackers make mistakes sometimes, you just need to be there at the right moment and have that piece of evidence you can bring to court. It is important to report to authorities as soon as you can because the legal paperwork may come in handy for the process of justice.
Once trading on the internet (stocks, commodities, currencies, and the likes) became popular, dodgy “trading websites” popped up like mushrooms after the rain. These sites look very authentic, and it takes the victim a while to understand that they have been tricked – once they do, it’s usually too late. Of these, one of the most common scams is called a ‘forex scam’, where the website convinces the victim to gamble on exchange rates between currencies.
Chances are with these websites that the investor is going to lose money, but even if the investor profits, usually the ‘broker’ disappears when the investor wants to claim their money. The safest bet here is to stay away from these sites, but you don’t always know in advance that they are crooks. However, today there are agencies specializing in tracking down these con brokers, even if they have seemingly disappeared off the grid, and bringing them to justice. In this case as well, keeping any written transaction between you and the fake broker is crucial to the process in court.
Phony online stores
We can’t live without e-commerce today, and that’s not a bad thing. The problem is that e-commerce is also a bedrock for illegitimate activity – mainly crooks who take your money and give you nothing in return. It’s easy to promise the world on the internet and then disappear when it’s time to deliver.
How can you be sure that you’re not making deals with online crooks? First of all, check out the website you want to buy from. A simple Google search can bring up a lot of warning signs, as well as reviews from other clients. Make sure you get a receipt for your purchase, and if you don’t get one right away – call the deal off.
Usually, in these cases, it’s easier to track down the scammer, since you have a website you can base your case against. There are official legal institutions that were set up with the goal of protecting consumer rights online. Since these are government bodies, they don’t charge for their services and have the technological tools to drag scammers to court. However, sometimes these cases are not ‘clear cut’, and in these situations, you may want to gear up with a private attorney.
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