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An Internet fraud (online scam) is the use of Internet services or software with Internet access to defraud victims or to otherwise take advantage of them; for example, by stealing personal information, which can even lead to identity theft. Internet services can be used to present fraudulent solicitations to prospective victims, to conduct fraudulent transactions, or to transmit the proceeds of fraud to financial institutions or to others connected with the scheme. Research suggests that online scams can happen through social engineering and social influence. It can occur in chat rooms, social media, email, message boards, or on websites.
Counterfeit postal money orders
According to the FBI, on April 26, 2005 Tom Zeller Jr. wrote an article in The New York Times regarding a surge in the quantity and quality of the forging of U.S. postal money orders, and its use to commit online fraud.
Online automotive fraud
A fraudster posts a nonexistent vehicle for sale to a website, typically a luxury or sports car, advertised for well below its market value. The details of the vehicle, including photos and description, are typically lifted from sites such as Craigslist, AutoTrader.com and Cars.com. An interested buyer, hopeful for a bargain, emails the fraudster, who responds saying the car is still available but is located overseas. Or, the scammer will say that he is out of the country but the car is with a shipping company. The scam artist then instructs the victim to send a deposit or full payment via wire transfer to initiate the "shipping" process. To make the transaction seem more legitimate, the fraudster will ask the buyer to send money to a fake agent of a third party that claims to provide purchase protection. The unwitting victims wire the funds, and subsequently discover they have been scammed. In response, auto sales websites often post warnings to buyers, for example, those on Craigslist which warn not to accept offers in which vehicles are shipped, where funds are paid using Western Union or wire, etcetera, requesting those postings to be flagged as abuse.
The scammer poses as a charitable organization soliciting donations to help the victims of a natural disaster, terrorist attack (such as the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attack), regional conflict, or epidemic. Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 tsunami were popular targets of scammers perpetrating charity scams; other more timeless scam charities purport to be raising money for cancer, AIDS or Ebola virus research, children's orphanages (the scammer pretends to work for the orphanage or a non-profit associated with it), or impersonates charities such as the Red Cross or United Way. The scammer asks for donations, often linking to online news articles to strengthen their story of a funds drive. The scammer's victims are charitable people who believe they are helping a worthy cause and expect nothing in return. Once sent, the money is gone and the scammer often disappears, though many attempt to keep the scam going by asking for a series of payments. The victim may sometimes find themselves in legal trouble after deducting their supposed donations from their income taxes. United States tax law states that charitable donations are only deductible if made to a qualified non-profit organization. The scammer may tell the victim their donation is deductible and provide all necessary proof of donation, but the information provided by the scammer is fictional, and if audited, the victim faces stiff penalties as a result of the fraud. Though these scams have some of the highest success rates especially following a major disaster, and are employed by scammers all over the world, the average loss per victim is less than other fraud schemes. This is because, unlike scams involving a large expected payoff, the victim is far less likely to borrow money to donate or donate more than they can spare.
Internet ticket fraud
A variation of Internet marketing fraud offers tickets to sought-after events such as concerts, shows, and sports events. The tickets are fake, or are never delivered. The proliferation of online ticket agencies, and the existence of experienced and dishonest ticket resellers, has fueled this kind of fraud. Many such scams are run by British ticket touts, though they may base their operations in other countries.
A prime example was the global 2008 Beijing Olympic Games ticket fraud run by US-registered Xclusive Leisure and Hospitality, sold through a professionally designed website, www.beijingticketing.com, with the name "Beijing 2008 Ticketing". On 4 August it was reported that more than A$50 million worth of fake tickets had been sold through the website. On 6 August it was reported that the person behind the scam, which was wholly based outside China, was a British ticket tout, Terance Shepherd.
- Muscanell, Nicole; et al. (2 July 2014). "Weapons of Influence Misused: A Social Influence Analysis of Why People Fall Prey to Internet Scams". Social and Personality Psychology Compass. 8: 388–396. doi:10.1111/spc3.12115. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
- "Be Scam Smart". bescamsmart.com.[dead link]
- Tom Zeller Jr (April 26, 2005). "A Common Currency for Online Fraud: Forgers of U.S. Postal Money Orders Grow". New York Times.
- "CyberCops.com - Counterfeit Postal Money Orders". www.cybercops.com. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
- "craigslist - autos". www.craigslist.org. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
- "Scam Watch - Nigerian Scams". Scam Watch - Australian Government. 12 May 2016.
- Jamie Doward (2008-03-09). "How boom in rogue ticket websites fleeces Britons". The Observer. London. Retrieved 9 March 2008.
- "USOC and IOC file lawsuit against fraudulent ticket seller". Sports City. Retrieved 1 August 2008.
- Jacquelin Magnay (4 August 2008). "Ticket swindle leaves trail of losers". The Sydney Morning Herald.
- Kelly Burke (6 August 2008). "British fraud ran Beijing ticket scam". The Sydney Morning Herald.