Here’s some good information about online scams from the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) run by the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center. Under Top Scams I’ve selected some of the more frequent scams from the 2012 report. The full report is available HERE.
In 2012, the IC3 received 289,874 consumer complaints with an adjusted dollar loss of $525,441,101, which is an 8.3% increase in reported losses since 2011. Here’s how to recognize these scams and tips on not becoming the next victim. For each scam/fraud, I’ve included the phone number from the 2012 report linked above. When in doubt, search for information using your favorite Internet search engine. You’ll be surprised what pops up.
Top Scams and How To Not Be A Victim
The Scam: Auto Fraud - Page 8
In fraudulent vehicle sales, criminals attempt to sell vehicles they do not own. An attractive deal is created by advertising vehicles for sale on various online platforms at prices below market value. Often the fraudsters claim they must sell the vehicles quickly because they are relocating for work, being deployed by the military, or have a tragic family circumstance and are in need of money.
FBI Impersonation - Page 9
The names of various government agencies and high-ranking government officials have been used in spam attacks in an attempt to defraud consumers. Complaints that directly spoof the name of FBI Director Robert Mueller continue to make up a large part of the government impersonation e-mail scams. Those complaints include elements of Nigerian scam letters (also known as 419 scams) incorporating get-rich inheritance scenarios, bogus lottery winning notifications and occasional extortion threats.
Intimidation/Extortion Scams - Page 10
Hit Man Scam - Page 12
The scam originated as a person sending an e-mail portraying himself as a hit man hired to kill the victim. The e-mail instructed the recipient to pay an amount of money to ensure the hit man did not carry out the death contract.
Scareware/Ransomware - Page 13
Extorting money from consumers by intimidating them with false claims pretending to be the federal government watching their Internet use and other intimidation tactics have evolved over the years to include some of the below highlighted scams.
Real Estate Fraud - Page 14
Romance Scams - Page 16
Perpetrators use the promise of love and romance to entice and manipulate online victims. A perpetrator scouts the Internet for victims, often finding them in chat rooms, on dating sites and even within social media networks. These individuals seduce
victims with small gifts, poetry, claims of common interest or the promise of constant companionship.
For 2012, the IC3 put together these overall statistics, which really tell the story of how much this kind of crime really costs.
Total complaints received: 289,874
Complaints reporting loss: 114,908
Total Loss: $525,441,110
Median dollar loss for those reporting a loss: $600.00
Average dollar loss overall: $1,813.00
Average dollar loss for those reporting loss: $4,573.00
While others sit and Monday-morning quarterback what the FBI and Cleveland Police did and did not do, let’s not lose sight of some valuable lessons for current and future cases involving the use of social media. DNA testing provides this lesson for us.
Many current and past cases are being solved as DNA testing becomes more sophisticated. New types of testing provides greater accuracy in identifying those responsible - testing that wasn’t available many times when the original crime occurred. Law enforcement agencies are resubmitting DNA samples, especially on cold cases where DNA can now be extracted from smaller samples. Over time, there is a greater chance that the suspect with the matching profile has been otherwise arrested elsewhere for an offense where DNA was collected, or that a family member has been identified who cooperates. Once a match is made, investigators can begin building the case.
In the case of Michelle knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, DNA wasn’t a factor in solving the horrific crime. However, DNA has been used to confirm Ariel Castro, currently in custody for the kidnapping and rape of all three victims, is the father of Amanda’s daughter. So what was available that could have been used to help shed new light, create more leads and raise awareness of the kidnappings? Let’s look at the knowns:
All three victims disappeared within 3-4 blocks of each other.
On Monday, April 15, I wrote a blog entry called “How Social Media Will Help Solve The Boston Marathon Bombing”. In this post I laid out reasons I believed that, in this modern digital age, social media would play a critical role in solving the bombing. This was almost 48 hours before the FBI released photos of Suspect 1 and Suspect 2. At that point both suspects became radioactive and social media shrank the world around them - a point I made on February 7, 2013 when I was interviewed by Jenna Lee on the Small Business Spotlight.
Social media may not have directly captured the suspects, but it played a critical role in creating awareness, providing tips and inducing panic in the brothers. This panic led to their capture. I personally have no doubt that more attacks were planned. There were additional pressure cooker bombs already made, homemade hand grenades and weapons and ammunition. This was the beginning of a terror campaign. As the role of social becomes more important in addressing terrorism, how it is used is critical. I go into more detail on how Connected To The Case works during an interview with Jonathan Hunt on FoxNews.com.
Nothing is ever a silver bullet. However, in this day and age the prevalence of social media will provide a rich source of investigative leads and material - a social media surveillance system. Here’s an example on a social media app called Vine:
While there is a lot of television and mass media available, over the day there will be untold amounts of video, pictures and social media posts that may have captured the bombs being planted. This will be a tough job for the federal, state and local authorities. But it’s one that will be helped by the use of social media.
Social media will also be used to help create awareness, reach, scope and frequency as the suspects are identified, tracked and eventually captured. The facts and circumstances of this event are not well known yet. More information will be coming out in the following days. There are early indications that there are even more devices that have been discovered. How long ago those devices were planted is an issue of date, time and location. Almost 80% of date according to an ESRI survey has a data component to it. Social media thrives on location-based data.
I’ve provided security consulting services to educational institutions of all kinds and I’ve learned something about how they function when it comes to security. Colleges and universities generally have a campus police force of some kind and occasionally they are even sworn law enforcement officers. Ever since the “Lehigh Law” (I’m a Lehigh alumnus), although not necessarily only because of it, security in higher education is usually taken very serious and sometimes done well. The same can’t be said about elementary and high schools.
Colleges and universities have significant advantages. Aside from often being large (virtually small towns), they often have the resources to support both good security technology (like “blue light stations”) and campus police departments. On the other hand, elementary and high schools are usually strapped for funds and staff. This is all the more reason why it concerns me so much when I see them wasting money on ineffective systems and programs.
This begs the question, should lower tier schools that don’t have an adequately staffed security department—and more often than not, no security department—and not enough operating funds be spending money for CCTV systems. And…the answer is…it depends! If it is clearly stated to parents, students, and faculty that the primary purpose is to aid post-incident investigations, then it could be a very good thing to do.