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Jennifer Mellon | Investigating Online Scams

Top 3 Common Forms of Online Scams by Jennifer Mellon

The internet has made communications easier for the general public. Where decades ago international communications meant overseas phone calls that cost a fortune, these days, phone calls, video calls, and messaging are offered for free through various apps. Unfortunately, unscrupulous entities have taken advantage of this, laments Jennifer Mellon Co-Founder and President of Trustify, a technology platform that connects clients to a network of professional private investigators across the country.

Investigating online scams

Online scams, shares Jennifer Mellon, take on various forms and the primary goal is to dupe the person on the other side of the screen. Among the various reasons for online scams, the most common motive is to steal money. Sadly, despite numerous warnings from the government and even online watchdogs about the prevalence of online scams or internet fraud, people are still falling for it hook, line and sinker. Image Source: FBI.gov

In 2017, losses from online scams totaled a staggering $1.4 billion, according to the FBI’s 2017 Internet Crime Report. To protect the public from internet fraud, Jennifer Mellon shares that Trustify deemed it necessary to include online investigations to their services. Online investigations trace the activities of the subject, delve deeper into the subject’s online persona, and follow the trail of their online footprint. In so doing, clients are saved from falling victim to internet fraud.

For the reader’s information, below are the most common forms of internet fraud:

1. Online dating

Unscrupulous entities join a dating site or send a random email or private message to make a connection with the “potential victim.” The perpetrator takes advantage of the victim’s vulnerability and ‘primes’ the target to the point of making them fall for them. When the timing is ripe, the perpetrator then proceeds with their primary purpose, which can be either sexual or financial in nature.

Extortion is common in this type of scam, where the perpetrator asks for large sums of money (which continues until the victim reports the incident to the police) in exchange for not revealing nude or compromising photos of the victim.

2. Small investment, big returns

Who doesn’t want a million dollars in the bank? Everyone does, but unfortunately, a lot of people want to get it the easy way, which makes them an easy target for investment scams, says Jennifer Mellon. This type of internet fraud can take on various forms. Usually, the perpetrator will set up a website that looks legitimate. The website details investment opportunities for small-time players who want to become instant millionaires. They could advertise a certain product or service that needs investors, or they could outline a “growth” scheme which, when you look closely, is a pyramiding scam. In a nutshell, it’s a bogus investment and business opportunity, says Jennifer Mellon.

3. Bogus sellers

Another common form of online scam involves selling a non-existent item to online consumers. The scammer uses popular listing sites like Craigslist. When a buyer shows interest, the poser would usually ask to transact through email or private messaging. A deposit would then be required to expedite processing or shipping; sometimes the scammer asks for the full amount. Jennifer Mellon shares that when the poser receives the money they usually disappear, meaning the buyer is no longer able to reach them through the contact details they used for the transaction. What happens to the item? The item never reaches the buyer. These bogus sellers have even gone as far as selling a non-existent car! And the sad part is that buyers fall for it.