Skip to main content
Find a Lawyer
Please enter a legal issue and/or a location
Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Online Scams

The internet has become a powerful social and economic force. Things such as online shopping, social media, and everything else have become more advanced, and scams have kept pace.

A new branch of law was developed to regulate the internet and keep users safe, but cybercriminals still abound. Cybersecurity is essential, especially when you share sensitive details like credit card information and personal photos.

Learn how to protect yourself by avoiding and reporting scams.

Common Types of Scams

Your antivirus software can protect you from some online threats, but not all. The most effective scams often use social engineering to gain your trust.

Some of the infamous online scams in recent years include:

  • Spoofing and phishing scams: A scammer creates a fake website, email, or social media profile that impersonates a legitimate one, usually for a retailer or financial institution
  • Tech support scams: Scammers claim to work with a trusted company's customer service department and ask for access to your computer to fix a problem
  • Online dating and romance scams: Con artists pretend to have a genuine romantic interest in their target to get money, plane tickets, or other gifts
  • Investment scams: Scammers promise a dazzling return for a small payment upfront, but they have no intention of paying you back or using the money as promised
  • Sweepstakes scams: You'll receive a claim stating that you've won a prize, but you must give away information or buy something before you can collect the nonexistent winnings
  • Download scams: Malware or ransomware is attached to files under the guise of innocent downloadable content like music, movies, or even cybersecurity software

There are many other forms of fraud online. As a rule of thumb, avoid sharing sensitive information on the internet as much as possible. In general, legitimate parties such as the IRS or your bank won't ask you to share details like passwords or social security numbers.

Watch Out for New Scams

Once many people know the red flags of a scam, it's less likely to work. That's why scammers create new ways to trick their targets.

Online scammers exploit new technology that isn't familiar to the average person. Laws and regulations often can't keep up with the rapid pace of technical advancements. Consumers have fewer protections against scams that use unregulated technology.

Cryptocurrency Scams

The rise in cryptocurrency fraud and theft shows how fraudsters evolve. Be wary of any requests to transfer cryptocurrency while online shopping or investing.

Cryptocurrency transactions don't offer the same legal protection and paper trail as a credit card charge. Scammers know they face a lower risk of getting caught and losing the stolen assets.

Artificial Intelligence Scams

As artificial intelligence (AI) advances, it could also play a role in new online scams.

For example, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns consumers that scammers can already use AI to fake the voices of their family members on a phone call. It's possible that online video calls might also mimic real people in the near future.

Checking the phone number and asking personal questions can help you verify a speaker's identity. Unfortunately, many people aren't yet aware of voice impersonation. They might not take precautions, which some scammers see as an opportunity.

Scams Often Result in Identity Theft

In many scams, the scammer aims to take the target's money, but your personal information could be more valuable than a one-time gift card or wire transfer.

Identity theft is a crime in which a thief uses your information to commit fraud and steal more from you. Thieves could unlock your bank account, medical records, personal emails, and other data.

Fighting online identity theft can be complicated. The process starts with reporting the cybercrime as soon as possible.

Who Investigates Scam Reports?

Multiple government agencies can investigate a report. The type of scam or hacking crime determines which agency can best respond to it. You can use USA.gov to find the right agency for your report.

Federal consumer protection agencies that handle online scams include the FTC and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Internet Crime Complaint Center. You can also contact your state's attorney general.

Online scams are complex crimes that often have many victims across the globe. These agencies may be more responsive and better equipped to help you than local law enforcement.

Other Resources for Cybercrime Recovery

Non-government resources can help you address the fallout from a scam. Speak with a company or institution's fraud department to close stolen accounts. You can also temporarily freeze your credit score with a credit bureau to minimize the damage. A consumer protection attorney can help you evaluate your legal options for an online fraud case.

Avoiding Internet Scams

Cybercriminals use complicated forms of deception. Anyone could become the target of a phishing email or malicious popup, no matter how digitally savvy they are.

Learn how to protect your financial information and privacy from hackers and scammers. In this section, FindLaw offers tips and resources to stay safe online.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:
Was this helpful?

Copied to clipboard

Find a Lawyer

More Options