Make us your home page

FBI warns holiday online shoppers to beware of cyber fraud

The FBI is reminding consumers to be wary of online scams, especially around the holidays.

Federal prosecutors in Tampa have filed warrants to shut five websites they say sell counterfeit goods.

The effort is part of a nationwide crackdown on 82 websites suspected of selling phony goods. (Story, -5B)

The FBI warns that identity thieves may try to gain personal information by sending e-mails and text messages indicating problems with financial accounts. Complaints about cyber fraud are on the rise. The Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3, received 336,655 complaints in 2009, a 22 percent increase over the previous year. The center — a partnership of the FBI and the nonprofit National White Collar Crime Center — said the complaints involved losses totaling $559.7 million in 2009, up from $264.6 million in 2008.

Law enforcement investigated almost 44 percent of last year's complaints and roughly 26 percent the previous year, according to IC3 data. Cases are not referred to law enforcement unless there's documented harm or either the complainant or the alleged scammer lives in the United States.

To avoid being victimized by cyber fraud, the FBI recommends that you:

• Be cautious of e-mail claiming to contain pictures in attached files; the files may contain viruses. Open only attachments from known senders. Scan the attachments for viruses, if possible.

• Avoid filling out forms contained in e-mail messages that ask for personal information.

• Always compare the link in the e-mail with the link to which you are directed to determine if they match and will lead you to a legitimate site.

• Log directly onto a store's website identified in the e-mail instead of linking to it from an unsolicited e-mail. If the e-mail appears to be from your bank, credit card issuer or other company you deal with frequently, your statements or official correspondence will provide the proper contact information.

• Verify any requests for personal information by calling the business or financial institution using the phone numbers listed on a billing statement or credit card.

• Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the e-mail to verify if the e-mail is genuine.

For more on online scams, visit the FBI's E-Scams and Warnings Web page For information on filing a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center, visit


Sites suspected of

selling fake goods

Just in time for Cyber Monday holiday shopping, federal prosecutors in Tampa filed warrants to shut five websites they say sell counterfeit goods. The websites —,,, and — offered to sell golf clubs, team jerseys and DVDs of never-before-released American television shows, movies and music. But many of these products feature Asian markings and misspelled words that mark them as obvious fakes, prosecutors say. Four of the five sites are registered to Chinese companies or individuals who advertise goods to be shipped to the United States, prosecutors say. The warrants authorized Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to seize and shut the sites. The effort is part of a nationwide crackdown on 82 websites suspected of selling phony goods.

.fast facts

10 to watch for

The Internet Crime Complaint Center lists the 10 most common cyber-fraud complaint categories:

1. FBI scams, in which the sender tries to get money or personal ID via e-mails claiming to be from the FBI.

2. Advance fee fraud. It involves promises of giving something in exchange for an advance payment.

3. ID theft, involving stolen personal information.

4. Nondelivery of merchandise. An item is purchased but never delivered.

5. Overpayment fraud. Someone receives a bad check or money order with instructions to deposit it into a bank and return some money to the sender.

6. Miscellaneous fraud. An attempt to get the recipient to send money where nothing is bought or sold.

7. Spam. Consumer gets unsolicited e-mail, usually mass distributed.

8. Credit card fraud. Someone tries to make unauthorized charges to another person's account.

9. Auction fraud. Transactions occur in false auctions.

10. Computer damage. Criminals target and damage computers.

FBI warns holiday online shoppers to beware of cyber fraud 11/29/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Scripps Howard News Service.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pinellas licensing board asks Sen. Jack Latvala for $500,000 loan

    Local Government

    The troubled Pinellas County agency that regulates contractors wants Sen. Jack Latvala to help it get a $500,000 lifeline from the state to stay afloat.

    State Sen . Jack Latvala, R- Clearwater, is being asked to help the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board get $500,000 from the state so it can stay open beyond February.  [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  2. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally


    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  3. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members


    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  4. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion


    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  5. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]