Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Being a victim of scam or fraud on the internet is a horrible experience. It can take a major emotional and financial toll on you and your loved ones, and can be completely devastating. Making matters worse, many victims find that law enforcement is unable or unwilling to assist in these cases, where criminals often reside and operate overseas in developing countries. Even when the evidence is clear, it can be hard to go after criminals and recover losses.

Among the global victims, the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia lose the most. Annual losses in these countries are in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Experts say that even though internet users have become more educated and skeptical about meeting people online, criminals continue to stay ahead of the curve, and by using new techniques and methods, scams are rising.

International investigators urge internet users to be skeptical, and guard your personal information such as full name, address, date of birth, and so on. Never share ID numbers or credit card numbers with individuals you have never met in person, and if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Although scams are evolving, the request for money is always the traditional and most important red flag. Be very skeptical of anyone who claims to be in trouble, danger or in a bad situation that requires your help and your money. Be extra careful when communicating with companies or individuals in high risk countries, such as Nigeria or Ghana in West Africa; Russia, Romania or the Ukraine in Eastern Europe; Philippines or Malaysia in Southeast Asia; and Colombia in Latin America. Ignoring the risk online can lead to major real world problems.

To lower your risk, investigators advise background check investigations to determine if the person is real or a scammer. Professional investigators can verify a person’s identity and background.

Below are some tips to avoid romance scams and internet fraud.

1. Keep personal data to yourself. Scammers rely on the confidence they get from you to have you provide them with information such as full name, date of birth or any other data to use against you, whether to scam you or blackmail you. Share less!

2. Google it! A good start can be searching the subject’s name and email address on Google. It may not tell you much, but it is worth checking to see if someone else has commented on the person. Sometimes, a quick internet search can reveal past fraud cases.

3. Use paid online dating sites only. While major sites like Match.com and eHarmony are not immune from fraud, by any stretch of the imagination, they do have a slightly higher level of protection than some of the other free sites, so it’s worth considering.
4. Stay on the dating site. Many criminals soon after meeting you want you to stop communicating through the dating site or social network site like Facebook. They want to email you directly and call you directly. Keep the barriers between you in place to keep you safe, and use secure emails provided by Match.com and Facebook and others.

5. Don’t open attachments from strangers. Some criminals now send attachments to their chat mates which can install viruses on your computer to steal your passwords and even your identity. If you don’t know the person well, avoid opening email attachments.

6. Be skeptical of soldier stories. Military scams are up sharply, so if you are communicating with a soldier who claims to be in Iraq or Afghanistan, for example, be skeptical!

7. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. If you met Mr. or Ms. Perfect online and they fell in love with you overnight, don’t get too caught up in the story. Ask yourself if there are any red flags. If you’re not sure, contact a reputable international investigator for help.

8. Avoid scams with emergency or money needed. If you’ve met someone online who claims to have a major emergency, traveling abroad, or needs money, this is a major red flag and you may be communicating with a criminal. Stop and consider the risks.

9. Never send money to any person you’ve never met. No excuses.

10. Consult a professional. International private investigators and professional background check investigations can verify individuals, check identity, and screen for fraud. If you have met someone on the internet and think there is potential in the relationship, minimize your risk and contact a professional investigator for advice. A background check can save you time and money and protect you from fraud. It is wise insurance to have!

If you suspect you are dealing with a criminal or a scammer, cease contact immediately. If you think you have truly found someone, consider a dating background check to be safe.

Best of luck,

A Hathaway
© 2012 A Hathaway 
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Posted by the Investigators

This copyrighted article was written and published by the editor and site author, A. Hathaway, or other guest private investigator, expert or contributor as noted.