I've Spotted an Online Scam! Now What?

One of your fellow Lavasoft News readers recently wrote to us, explaining that he had been the object of some bad online behavior; he had received several phishing messages, purporting to be from his bank. After receiving the messages, he informed his bank and local authorities of the scheme, but wondered if there were any other methods available for reporting the scam, in order to warn others and keep the unwary from getting duped.

So, what do you do if you've spotted an online scam or fraudulent activity, like a phishing message? We've put together a list, below, of the initial steps you can take. Take a look – your report might help someone else from becoming the next victim.

Please keep in mind: depending on the part of the world you're located in and the type of online crime involved, there are more specific methods available to you; just like real-world crime, cyber crimes should be reported to local, federal or international authorities, depending on the scope of the fraud or crime involved. Find out in advance where to report cyber crimes in your area or in your language so that you're prepared for what you may encounter online! For example, U.S. citizens can find cyber crime reporting resources on the U.S. Department of Justice website and can additional information on filing various Internet-related complaints on the OnGuardOnline website.

  • First, report phishing ploys to the companies or organizations that are being imitated. Many organizations have details on their website on how to report these kinds of problems.
  • You have the option to report phishing to the Anti-Phishing Working Group by sending a message to reportphishing@antiphishing.org; it's a global pan-industrial and law enforcement association which focuses on eliminating the fraud and identity theft that results from phishing, pharming, and e-mail spoofing. You can also report phishing to the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team by sending a message to phishing-report@us-cert.gov; it works with state and local government in the U.S. as well as industry and international partners to address key cyber security issues and to distribute information to the public.
  • If you believe a charity or business is fraudulent, you can file a complaint with local authorities and notify watchdog organizations, like the Better Business Bureau (BBB), of a potential scam. While the BBB does not have legal or policing powers, it does provide information about marketplace fraud through scam reports to the public, media releases and alerts.
  • You can report criminal issues to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a partnership with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, where complaints are reported, reviewed, and then referred to an appropriate federal, state, local or international law enforcement agency. More information is available on the IC3 website.
  • If you're located in the United States, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, the country's consumer protection agency. If you think that the ploy that you've encountered is being distributed internationally, you can report it to eConsumer.gov, a portal for consumers to report cross-border scams and complaints of online transactions with foreign companies. If you're located within the European Union, you can check the InSafe website, a network of national nodes that coordinates Internet safety awareness in Europe, for points of contact within your country.

Do you have a specific question about a malware threat that you've encountered online? You can turn to free support from our worldwide volunteer security network at the Lavasoft Support Forums.

Complaints of online crime hit a record high in 2008, with a 33% increase over the previous year. Losses linked to online fraud were estimated at $265 million.

Source: Internet Crime Complaint Center
Help fight online crime with Lavasoft! Join Lavasoft ThreatWork, a global community of security volunteers that take an active role alongside Lavasoft as we battle cyber crime.

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“The three areas to successfully fight online crime are trust, speed, and comprehension... using a common reporting format and some well–implemented tools allows us to enhance the ability to quickly identify, understand, and mitigate the problems brought on by e–criminals.”

–Patrick Cain, Anti–Phishing Working Group
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