Understanding Internet Criminal Schemes and Trends

As people continue to become increasingly dependent on the Internet, cybercrime is on the rise, especially crimes involving highly-organized schemes. In most cases, these are federal crimes, which also carry a stiff sentence. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has compiled a list of some of the most common Internet crime schemes to be on the watch for. Some of the most common cybercrimes include:

Counterfeit Cashier’s Check

The counterfeit cashier’s check is a common scheme that targets people using online classified ads to sell merchandise. Typically, a buyer is located outside of the US, but has an associate in the US who owes him or her money. They send a cashier’s check for a larger amount, claiming the extra is for shipping costs to their international destination.

Because it is a cashier’s check, the bank typically releases the funds pretty quickly, and the buyer convinces the seller to wire the extra funds to them or their shipping agent. The seller sends the money only to find out after that the check was fraudulent and the bank is holding them responsible.

Debt Elimination

Schemes involving debt elimination typically involve websites that advertise for legal ways to dispose of debts, like mortgage loans and credit cards. They ask the interested party to send a certain dollar amount, typically $1,500 or $2,000 along with loan specifics and a power of attorney authorizing them to enter into transactions on the title of the home. Bonds and promissory notes are issued to the lenders who claim they can legally erase the debt, of which a certain percentage of the value of the satisfied debt is paid to the scammer.

Employment / Business Opportunities

Bogus foreign-based companies recruit US citizens on employment search websites for work-at-home opportunities. These typically involve reselling or reshipping merchandise to destinations outside of the country. Prospective employees provide personal info and copies of documents like birth certificates, social security cards, and/or driver’s license. The “employer” claims the payment will come from a US company. The employer sends a check for a much larger amount and instructs the employee to deposit the check and send the difference back to the employer’s bank, usually located in Eastern Europe. The checks are obviously fraudulent and the “employee” is out all the money.

Lotteries

In this scheme, people randomly contact email addresses advising them they won an international lottery, with the request to contact the company to begin processing their winnings. There is an initial fee requested to initiate processing, an amount which is usually around $1,000 to $1,500. Emails may also list a domestic point of contact and address.

Ponzi Scheme

Ponzi schemes, also called pyramid schemes, are when investors are promised unusually high profits on investments, however no investment is actually made. The first “investors” are paid off with money received from later participants. Eventually, the system typically collapses and the later investors do not receive any money and lose their initial investment, as well.

Other Scams

There are a number of other common Internet schemes, such as:

  • Auction Fraud
  • Credit Card Fraud
  • Parcel Courier Email Scheme
  • Escrow Services Fraud
  • Identity Theft
  • Internet Extortion
  • Investment Fraud
  • Nigerian Letter or “419”
  • Phishing/Spoofing
  • Reshipping
  • Spam
  • Third Party Receiver of Funds
When to Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been arrested for or charged with an internet or computer crime, please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein to schedule an initial consultation.