The Internet is a natural breeding ground for scam artists and criminals because it lends itself to anonymity. Perpetrators can hide very effectively by “spoofing” or quickly changing their email address, and/or by using offshore or “zombie” computers. A “zombie” is a computer with a Trojan-horse installed. The Trojan lets the Trojan owner access the computer remotely. Now it can be used as a staging ground for anonymous attacks on other computers. Email spam and bogus websites are often used to perpetrate fraud.

The following is a list of scams and fraud causing victims millions of dollars.

  • 809 PHONE SCAM – The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has become aware of a long distance phone scam that may lead consumers to inadvertently ring up high charges on their phone bills. Click here to read more. (you will be redirected to the FCC website)
  • NIGERIAN 419 SCAM – Named after its Nigerian criminal code, the “419″ scam has circulated for years through snail mail, fax, and email. The US Secret Service, who refers to it as the Nigerian Advance Fee Fraud, has dedicated an entire section on its Financial Crimes Division page. It calls the crime a growing epidemic. This hoax email, which has too many variants, all appear to have been sent by a deposed African official or a relative of one. The email messages ask its recipients for assistance in transferring or handling a sizable sum of money, offering a corresponding share for such service. Click here to read more.
  • PHISHINGCon artists phish by spamming the world with counterfeit email. Their message appears to come from a widely recognized business like Sprint, America Online, eBay, Yahoo!, American Express, etc. It may even incorporate copies of the company graphics. The objective of Phishing trips is to get into your account, or worse yet, steal your identity. These fake messages urgently request some personal information — your account number, date of birth, Mother’s maiden name, credit card expiration date, etc. Click here to see examples of phishing.
  • IDENTITY THEFT – Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes. Click here to read more on the Federal Trade Commission’s id theft website. Click Here for an information sheet on handling identity theft.
  • ONLINE AUCTION FRAUD – The single largest category of Internet-related complaints to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Consumer Sentinel international database — 51,000 complaints in 2002, and officials expect even more in the coming years.


  • If you receive an unexpected e-mail saying your account will be shut down unless you confirm your billing information, such as a Social Security number, do not reply or click any links in the e-mail body.
  • Before submitting financial information through a Web site, look for the “lock” icon on the browser’s status bar. It means your information is secure during transmission.
  • If you are uncertain about the information, contact the company through an address or telephone number you know to be genuine.
  • If you unknowingly supplied personal or financial information, contact your bank and credit card company immediately.
  • Monitor credit card and bank statements for unauthorized charges.
  • Suspicious e-mail can be forwarded to, and complaints should be filed with the state attorney general’s office or through the FTC at
  • Consumers should also report fraudulent or suspicious e-mail to their Internet service provider.

The following is a list of helpful websites: