Cyberfraud, identity theft and consumer fraud threaten Floridians on a daily basis. Knowledge and vigilance are the most effective ways to combat these threats. This article details resources that can help you take action to prevent or minimize the effect of these criminal acts.
CYBERFRAUD TASK FORCE
Technology developments have impacted our world in many positive ways. Unfortunately, the growth of technology has also dramatically increased the opportunities for con artists and scammers. Frequently Florida consumers are unaware that they've been conned in an internet scam or that their online activities have left them exposed to fraud.
There are many different forms of CyberFraud. Unauthorized charges on telephone bills, credit cards, debit cards and bank accounts are common. These charges are often internet-generated. Therefore, it is important to be vigilant about reviewing your monthly statements to ensure that there are no charges from unauthorized companies. In addition, consumers frequently provide personal information when filling out applications for free gifts or coupons that are then used to commit fraud.
The Florida Attorney General's Office has formed a CyberFraud Task Force to review, investigate and prosecute illegal online activities against consumers. Many of the Task Force's investigations are initiated by consumer complaints and referrals. To file a complaint about internet-related or cyberfraud, contact the Attorney General's Office at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM (1-866-966-7226) or online at the Florida Attorney General's website.
An additional resource for reporting Cyber Fraud is the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). IC3 was established as a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National White Collar Crime Center to serve as a means to receive Internet related criminal complaints and to further research, develop, and refer the criminal complaints to federal, state, local, or international law enforcement and/or regulatory agencies for any investigation they deem to be appropriate. Complaint to IC3 can be filed online.
IDENTITY THEFT FRAUD
Identity theft has become a very serious problem for Florida consumers. The Attorney General states that identity theft is "the criminal act of taking a victim's identity for the purpose of obtaining credit, credit cards from banks and/or retailers, stealing money from the victim's existing accounts, applying for loans in the victim's name, establishing accounts with utility companies, leasing automobiles and residences, filing bankruptcy, and/or even obtaining employment."
Identity thieves can commit fraud in a victim's name that may go undetected for months or even years. Frequently, the victim's bank account is drained or credit destroyed. In addition, identity thieves commit crimes ranging from traffic fractions to major felonies - all in the victim's name. It may take years for the unsuspecting victim to repair the damage.
Florida's Identity Theft Resource and Response center provides invaluable information on how to prevent identity theft and the steps for reporting identity theft and rebuilding credit. Florida's Identity Theft Victim Kit provides contact information for how to notify the three major credit bureaus, creditors, bank or financial institution, and law enforcement. Finally, the Kit provides important prevention tips that will help you minimize the risk of identity theft. The Florida Identity Theft Victim Kit is also available online at the Florida Attorney General's website.
CONSUMER PROTECTION LAW RESOURCE
The Florida Attorney General also maintains a list of useful tips and tools to help protect consumers from fraud. The online resource details common fraud such as business opportunities, charitable solicitations, debt collection, health fraud, land sale scams, and work-at-home schemes.
Knowledge is one of Floridian's best defenses against Cyberfraud, identity theft and consumer fraud. The Florida Attorney General provides extensive online resources to help protect Florida consumers from internet-related threats. The Attorney General website is located at http://myfloridalegal.com.