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Public Safety | Internet Fraud

Internet Fraud

“Internet fraud” refers generally to any type of fraud scheme that uses one or more components of the Internet (i.e.chat rooms, e-mail, social networking sites, websites, or message boards). Internet fraud schemes defraud victims by:

  • fraudulent solicitations
  • fraudulent transactions
  • fraudulent transmissions of the proceeds of fraud like identity or banking information to financial institutions or to others connected with the scheme.

The information provided in the sections below can help you determine if you’re the victim of internet fraud and report fraud if it has occurred.

Reporting Internet Fraud

Learn more about Reporting Internet Fraud.

Common types of internet fraud can include:

Auctions and retail schemes, no delivery of merchandise/payment
After sending money, consumers received an item less valuable than promised or nothing

Credit Card fraud
Using falsely obtained credit card numbers to run up charges

Identity theft
Using falsely obtained personal information to commit fraud or theft

Counterfeit Cashiers Check schemes
Victim receives an offer from a buyer to overpay for an item. After receiving check, the victim will wire the excess amount back to the buyer. However, a few days after the check is deposited it is discovered to be fraudulent

Business Opportunity/”work-at-home” schemes
Asks you to pay up-front for a business opportunity or makes promises that seem too good to be true

Investment schemes
Claims that with a nominal investment fee consumers will be guaranteed big returns

Credit repair or Debt Elimination
Offers to lower your credit fees for an upfront cost

‘Nigerian’ money offers
This scheme involves someone claiming to be a foreign official, who promises big profits in exchange for help moving large sums of money out of their country

Advance fee loans
Offers to provide a loan after you pay an upfront fee

Lotteries
Emails or letters claiming you won a lottery, but to collect winnings you need to provide a credit card number or pay a fee

Phishing/Spoofing
Poses as a bank, or other organization, through e-mail or instant messaging, and directs users to enter information at a fake website which is almost identical to the real organization’s website.

Ponzi/Pyramid schemes
Plans require you to recruit distributors, buy expensive inventory or commit to a minimum sales volume

Internet access services
Consumers are lured by low cost or free internet access, only to discover charges for service or huge cancellation and termination fees

Health and diet scams
Be aware of claims that items sold through non-traditional suppliers are “proven” to cure serious health problems

Vacation or travel promotions
Promises low cost or free travel or vacations, but may include hidden costs, requires credit card information, or non-delivery of goods


Contact the Department of Public Safety at 202-884-9111.

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