(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—In kicking off National Consumer Protection Week, March 4-10, 2012, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today warned Ohioans about top cyber fraud trends.
“Cyber fraud is one of the biggest challenges to consumer protection we face today,” Attorney General DeWine said. “As we begin National Consumer Protection Week, I want to highlight the current trends we’re seeing and what we’re doing to stop fraud.”
Cyber fraud is a form of telecommunications fraud or wire fraud, where the theft or scam occurs by electronic communication. Cyber fraud has been advanced by scammers using the telephone, e-commerce websites, and social media platforms.
In Ohio, top trends in cyber fraud include:
- Failure to Deliver – Scammers post and “sell” items online, but after taking consumers’ money, never deliver the products. For example, a con artist pretends to be a military member and says he must sell his vehicle quickly for a low price, before he is deployed or there has been a death in the family so the seller is offering event tickets at a reduced price. The buyer sends the payment, but the con artist never delivers the vehicle or the tickets. In these and other scams, con artists play on consumers’ emotions to make their ploys more effective.
- “Spoofing”– Scammers use technology called Voice over Internet Protocol, or caller ID spoofing, which can disguise the number that appears on a consumer’s caller ID. Your caller ID may show a local bank or area code, but the call may actually be coming from another country. Scammers also can “spoof” email addresses to disguise the true origin of a message.
- Friend-in-Need & Grandparent Scams - Con artists pose as friends or family members in need to defraud potential victims. For example, a scammer hacks into a consumer’s email account and sends messages to all the consumer’s contacts saying the consumer has been hurt in another country and needs money immediately. Similarly, scammers may contact grandparents, pretend to be their grandchild in trouble, and ask that money be sent immediately.
- Payment Fraud – Individuals post items for sale online and are contacted by a potential buyer, who is a con artist in disguise. The con artist “buyer” overpays for the item (using a fake check or a phony credit card number) and asks the unsuspecting seller to send back the difference. Once the seller realizes the scam, it may be too late to recover the item or any money sent. Small businesses and job seekers also may be susceptible to similar payment scams.
- Government Agency Impersonation - Scammers send emails or make phone calls pretending to be the FBI, IRS, or Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Using these official-sounding messages, scammers try to scare consumers into providing their personal or financial information. They tell consumers that they owe money to the government and must pay immediately or be arrested or they claim to have money for the consumer and ask for the consumer’s personal information.
To combat cyber fraud in Ohio, Attorney General DeWine is taking a new approach to tracking scams and pursuing perpetrators.
Last year, during National Consumer Protection Week 2011, Attorney General DeWine announced the creation a special division within the Consumer Protection Section to help bring more criminal charges against scammers. The recently created Economic Crimes Division works with county prosecutors and local law enforcement to assist in preparing criminal consumer cases. Since its creation last March, the work of the Economic Crimes Division has led to 14 individuals being charged with felonies and 7 successful convictions.
For example, one Ohio couple was sentenced to prison for running a Craigslist ticket scam that took more than $200,000 from hundreds of victims throughout the U.S. and Canada.
In addition to establishing the Economic Crimes Division, DeWine also worked with the Ohio General Assembly on cyber fraud legislation that will give the Attorney General the authority to subpoena phone records, Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, and payment information in suspected cyber fraud cases and prepare them for prosecution by a county or special prosecutor. Senate Bill 223, which passed the General Assembly in February, will enable the Attorney General's Office to better assist local law enforcement in criminal investigations.
Consumers who suspect they have been a victim of telephone or cyber fraud should file a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or by calling 800-282-0515.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has joined government and nonprofit organizations across the country to celebrate National Consumer Protection Week, March 4-10, 2012. To view National Consumer Protection Week events in the state, visit www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov/NCPW.
Lisa Hackley: 614-466-3840
Dan Tierney: 614-466-3840