(This is an evergreen article that we update and post during the holiday season, especially with the internet now the predominant purchasing venue.)
Let me preface this week’s Bulletin by stating that the majority of online businesses are honest and strive hard to provide the goods and services that the digital public demands, requests and pays for. This self-regulation occurs for two reasons: a) most people/businesses are honest to begin with and b) word of mouth online occurs at lightning speed. Unfortunately, there is always someone out there with a scam and sooner or later, most people purchasing online will run into one of these shady businesses.
Our experience in investigating online fraud has led us to prepare the below checklist of 10 step to take if you are a victim of an online scam:
1. Gather as much information (name, address, phone numbers, domain names..) about the dishonest party as you can.
2. Put your complaint to them in writing rather than phoning it in. Be accurate and concise. Also, think of possible excuses the offending business may try to counter with and be prepared to argue these truth revisions.
3. Put the dishonest party on notice that you intend to take action against them if they do not resolve the problem fairly and to your satisfaction. It may take several rounds of talks before they come around to understanding that it might be better to simply resolve the issue with you and avoid more intense scrutiny. If that fails, we go to the next very nasty steps.
4. File an online compliant with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3): www.ic3.gov. and click on the “File a Complaint” link to fill out an online form. IC3 was formed, in partnership with the FBI, specifically to combat internet fraud.
5. File a complaint with the Internet Fraud Watch on their website www.fraud.org. The Internet Fraud Watch was created by the National Consumers League, the oldest nonprofit consumer organization in the United States.
6. File you next complaint with the Better Business Bureau OnLine website: www.bbbonline.org . BBBOnLine specifically deals with web commerce complaints. The BBB contacts the business involved in the dispute to determine if the dispute can be amicably resolved. A huge file of complaints with the BBB will cut into the business’ profits.
7. Google the Attorney General’s Office of the state in which the dishonest party operates. File a complaint. Criminal charges may be brought against the business if fraud is involved.
8. On the Whois website: Go to www.whois.net and look up the dishonest party’s domain name and web host. Inform the web host of your issue with this business and advise them that if they continue to provide hosting services to this party, they themselves can potentially be named in any legal action arising from this business’ activities, now that they have been put on notice. Don’t take an accusatory tone, rather, try to co-opt the web host as they probably do not want to become entangled in any questionable practices.
9. If the shady company has their own servers and do not use a web hosting service, contact the Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) website: www.icann.org. ICANN is the organization that has responsibility for Internet address space allocation. ICANN generally is reluctant to become involved in online business practice disputes but they will if your case is presented with strong evidence and they have received prior complaints about this same unscrupulous company.
10. If the disreputable business continues to operate despite your best reporting efforts, and they have advertisements n their site, contact their advertisers. Advertisers are not given to spending their marketing budget to receive complaints from disgruntled, ripped-off customers.
The above steps are tough measures, but they should get your internet fraud situation resolved and hopefully, it’ll be a one-time occurrence.
BNI Operatives: Situationally aware..
As always, stay safe.