The Internet is a global marketplace that allows businesses to reach consumers in almost any part of the world. Unfortunately, crooks also recognize the potentials of the Internet. The scams that were previously conducted by regular mail and telephone were transferred to the Internet.
The complaints related to online scams can be subdivided into two categories: fraud complaints and identity theft complaints. According to a report published by Consumer.gov in 2006 out of 674,354 complaints 428,319, or 64%, were fraud related and 246,035, or 36%, were identity theft related.
In the fraud category, almost 7% of all complaints were shop-at-home/catalog sales related, 7% were prizes/sweepstakes and lotteries related, 6% were Internet services and computer related complaints, 5% were Internet auctions related complaints, 3% were foreign money offers related complaints, 2% were advance-fee loans and credit protection/repair related complaints, and the remaining 11% complaints were related to telephone services, health care, business opportunities and work at home plans, travel, vacation and timeshare, investments, and etc. . Overall, consumer losses amounted to over 1.1 billion dollars and the medial monetary loss was 500 dollars. According to Fraud.org, in 2005 the top scams included the following:
- Auctions: goods were never delivered or were misrepresented.
- General merchandise: goods were never delivered or were misrepresented.
- Nigerian money offers: false promises of riches if consumer pays to transfer money to their bank accounts.
- Fake checks: phony checks were used to pay for work or items sold.
- Lotteries/lottery clubs: requests for payment to claim lottery winnings or get help to win.
- Advance fee loans: false promises of personal or business loans, even if credit is bad, for a fee upfront.
- Work-at-home plans: kits sold on false promises of big profits from working at home.
In the identity theft category, in 2006 the credit card fraud amounted to 25% of all complaints and was the most common form of reported complaints. It was followed by the phone or utilities fraud (16%), bank fraud (16%), and employment fraud (14%). Other significant categories of identity theft reported by victims were government documents/benefits fraud (10%) and loan fraud (5%).