A brochure developed by the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) describes mass marketing schemes used by criminals to defraud unwitting consumers.
Mass marketing fraud includes any plan, program, promotion, or campaign that is conducted through solicitation by telephone, mail, the Internet, or other means (e.g., mass meetings) to induce multiple persons to (1) purchase goods or services; (2) participate in a contest, sweepstakes, or lottery; (3) invest for financial profit; or (4) otherwise pay advance fees or “taxes” for services that are promised but not delivered.
Common scams include: charity counterfeit cashier’s checks; foreign lotteries; investment opportunities; mortgage offers; romance offers; telemarketing schemes; and West African advance-fee schemes.
Common “red flags” that may indicate fraud is occurring:
- Being asked for personal financial Information such as bank account information or credit card numbers via the telephone or by email.
- Using high-pressure sales tactics so as not to give you time to think about the information you are providing.
- Being told you have won a foreign lottery or sweepstakes.
- Being asked to help transfer funds out of a foreign country for a share of the money.
- Being offered help in repairing credit scores for an advanced fee.
- Receiving a counterfeit cashier’s check or money order for more than the cost of the item you are selling.
While the Internet can be a safe and convenient place to do business, scammers are out there in “cyber world’ targeting unsuspecting consumers. The IC3’s “LooksTooGoodToBeTrue.com” website was built to educate consumers and help prevent them from becoming a victim of an Internet fraud scheme. IC3 reminds consumers to remain vigilant:
- Take time to research any offers you receive over the Internet or telephone.
- Do not deposit any checks that are supposed winnings from a lottery or sweepstakes, especially if you didn’t enter one.
- Do not provide your sensitive, personal, or financial information unless you know who you are dealing with.
- Consult friends and family or a trusted advisor before making any major financial decisions.
The brochure describing these schemes can be downloaded from http://www.ic3.gov/media/MassMarketFraud.pdf for distribution to customers.
Editor’s note: This brochure can be particularly useful when you suspect customers may have become unwittingly involved in these schemes, perhaps as a measure to persuade them from conducting a suspect transactions.