Online fraud is a serious and growing issue: the latest report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Internet Crimes Complaint Center found a 33 percent jump in online fraud complaints in 2008 from the previous year and those reported complaints totaled $265 million in lost or stolen money. Add in victims who do not report they've been scammed and you're looking at millions more.
AutoTrader.com, the largest automotive marketplace, recently surveyed consumers to gauge their worries about falling victim to Internet fraud. The study, conducted by Harris Interactive, finds that two out of three Americans (65%) worry about being scammed while shopping online, and nearly one in three (29%) has either already personally fallen victim to an online scam or know someone who has. Despite their worries, the survey also revealed that only one in eight people feel "very confident" that they know enough to protect themselves from online fraud.
AutoTrader.com is dedicated to providing its visitors with a safe environment for shopping for new, certified pre-owned and used cars and sharing information with consumers on how to safely shop online. The company has partnered with renowned fraud prevention expert Sid Kirchheimer to spread the word.
"The Internet has made shopping easier than ever, even for high-ticket items like homes or vehicles," he says. "But with this increased convenience comes a growing number of scams, and the greater need for people to learn what to look out for and how to protect themselves."
Kirchheimer offers the following online fraud awareness advice for consumers:
-- Research the average prices for the cars, computers, furniture or whatever you are shopping for online. If you see an item priced far below similar items, be suspicious. Scammers use these dramatically lower prices on high-demand items to get shoppers excited and to lower their guard. -- Don't let a seller rush you. Many criminals advertising items for sale online will insist a sale must happen quickly for one reason or another. This is another ploy to get shoppers to lower their guard. -- Watch for Scammer Grammar. In emails or web ads, frequent misspellings, misused words or other common language errors a person fluent in English would not likely make should be a red flag that an ad might be fraudulent. And if a seller refuses to speak to you on the phone, that should also be a red flag. -- Never conduct online shopping from a public computer or even with your own computer in a location with Wi-Fi access. -- Don't click on "update your account" or other links or attachments provided in email messages. This is a popular method to get users to inadvertently download malware or input personal or financial information into bogus web sites that look just like sites from trusted companies or financial institutions. -- Avoid using words from the dictionary as passwords, even when duplicated or spelled backwards. Come up with interesting and unique combinations for passwords that include symbols and numbers, as well as letters.
Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life:377 Smart Waysto Protect You & Your Family from Ripoffs, Bogus Deals & Other Consumer Headaches (AARP/Sterling) and "Scam Alert" columnist for the AARP Bulletin.
"AutoTrader.com understands how easily the average consumer can be duped into an online scam, and we want to make sure that we are providing tools they can use to protect themselves when looking for a car or any other items online," says Chip Perry, AutoTrader.com president and CEO. "By visiting www.autotrader.com/fraudtips, consumers can find out everything they need to know to protect themselves and their money when shopping online."
AutoTrader.com, created in 1997 and headquartered in Atlanta, Ga., is the Internet's leading auto classifieds marketplace and consumer information website. AutoTrader.com aggregates in a single location about 3 million new cars, used cars and certified pre-owned cars from thousands of dealers and private owners and the site attracts about 14 million unique monthly visitors. Through innovative merchandising functionality such as multiple photos, videos, detailed descriptions and comprehensive research and compare tools, AutoTrader.com unites new and used car buyers and sellers online to improving the way people research, locate and advertise vehicles. AutoTrader.com is a majority-owned subsidiary of Cox Enterprises. The venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is also an investor. For more information, please visit www.autotrader.com.