Although the Internet has made life easier in many ways, it’s smart to be concerned about Internet crimes. Computer crime is becoming a growing problem for law enforcement officials around the world. Unfortunately, since Internet crimes typically involve people from many different geographic areas, catching and punishing the guilty parties is a difficult task.
One of the most common types of Internet crime is identity theft. This crime involves unscrupulous individuals who attempt to steal your personal information for financial gain. They may empty your bank account, run up unauthorized credit card charges, or open new accounts in your name and never pay the bills that result. Identity theft Internet crimes are often accomplished through phishing or spoofing, the practice of creating fake web sites or e-mail messages that trick the victim into divulging personal information. Certain computer viruses may also be used to harvest personal information for identity theft crimes.
Employment or business opportunity Internet scams that pray on the desires of financially desperate individuals are becoming increasingly popular as well. These Internet crimes may involve asking the victim to illegally reship merchandise to overseas locations, make fraudulent wire transfers, or advertise non-existent merchandise for sale on behalf of a third party. Generally, if you see an advertisement promising large monetary rewards for a minimal amount of effort, it’s smart to be cautious. It is possible to make money online, but legitimate business opportunities require a substantial investment of your time and skill.
Cyberstalking is a type of Internet crime that is of particular concern for teenagers and young adults. Social networking websites such as MySpace make it very easy for criminals to learn private details about a victim’s hobbies, interests, friends, family, and daily schedule. Cyberstalking Internet crimes may also lead to sexual assault if the perpetrator is able to convince the victim to appear for a personal meeting.
To prevent yourself from becoming victim of Internet crimes, it’s important to remain alert when using your computer. Never give out personal information such as your full name, birth date, address, or Social Security number unless you understand what the information will be used for. In addition, remember that people you meet online may not always be representing themselves truthfully. Be suspicious of claims that seem exaggerated or hard to verify.
If you believe you are a victim of Internet crime, the best course of action is to file a formal complaint with the Internet Crime Compliant Center. Also known as IC3, this organization is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National White Collar Crime Center. IC3 works with federal, state, local, and international law enforcement agencies to identify patterns in Internet crimes.