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Using the Internet is a common thing in life today. We do our online banking, begin searching the web, playing games and more. Many times we find ourselves on the road with our laptops or use one at a facility without considering the onsequences. These articles will give you tips and tricks on how to stay safe and keep your computer virus-free.

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Cross-Border Fraud
Cross-border fraud is a serious problem - and it appears to be growing. Today, the Internet and cell phones make it easy for victims to be targeted from anywhere in the world.

What To Do

Know who you’re dealing with.
Try to find a seller’s physical address (not just a P.O. Box) and phone number. With internet phone services and other web-based technologies, it’s tough to tell where someone is calling from. Do an internet search for the company name and website, and look for negative reviews. If you find them, you’ll have to decide if the offer is worth the risk. After all, it’s only a good deal if you actually get a product that works.

Understand that wiring money is like sending cash.
Con artists often insist that people wire money, especially overseas, because it’s nearly impossible to reverse the transaction or trace the money. Don’t wire money to strangers, to sellers who insist on wire transfers for payment, or to anyone who claims to be a relative or family friend in an emergency who wants to keep the request a secret.

Read your monthly statements.
Scammers steal account information and then run up charges or commit crimes in your name. Dishonest merchants bill you for monthly “membership fees” and other goods or services without your authorization. If you see charges you don’t recognize or didn’t okay, contact your bank, card issuer, or other creditor immediately.

Give only to established charities after a disaster.
In the aftermath of a disaster, give to established charities, rather than one that has sprung up overnight. Pop-up charities probably don’t have the infrastructure to get help to the affected areas or people, and they could be collecting the money to finance illegal activity. For more donating tips, check out

Talk to your doctor before you buy health products or treatments.
Ask about research that supports a product’s claims — and possible risks or side effects. Buy prescription drugs only from licensed U.S. pharmacies. Otherwise, you could end up with products that are fake, expired, or mislabeled — in short, products that could be dangerous to your health.

When investing, remember there’s no sure thing.
If someone contacts you with low-risk, high-return investment opportunities, stay away. When you hear pitches that insist you act now, that guarantee big profits, that promise little or no financial risk, or that demand that you send cash immediately, report them at

What Not To Do

Don’t send money to someone you don’t know.
Not an online seller you’ve never heard of — nor an online love interest who asks for money. It’s best to do business with sites you know and trust. If you buy items through an online auction, consider using an option that provides protection, like a credit card.

If you think you’ve found a good deal, but you aren’t familiar with the company, do some research. Type the company or product name into your favorite search engine with terms like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” See what comes up – on the first page of results as well as on the later pages.

Never pay fees now for the promise of a big pay-off later — whether it’s for a loan, a job, or a so-called prize.

Don’t agree to deposit a check and wire money back.
No matter how convincing the story. By law, banks have to make funds from deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. You’re responsible for the checks you deposit: If a check turns out to be a fake, you’re responsible for paying back the bank.
Don’t reply to messages asking for personal or financial information.

That goes whether the message comes as an email, a phone call, a text message, or an ad. Don’t click on links or call phone numbers included in the message, either. It’s called phishing. The crooks behind these messages are trying to trick you into revealing sensitive information. If you got a message like this and you are concerned about your account status, call the number on your credit or debit card — or your statement — and check on it.

Don’t play a foreign lottery.
It’s illegal to play a foreign lottery. And yet messages that tout your chances of winning a foreign lottery, or messages that claim you’ve already won can be so tempting. Inevitably, you’re asked to pay “taxes,” “fees,” or “customs duties” to collect your prize. If you send money to collect, you haven’t won anything. Indeed, you’ve lost whatever money you sent. You won’t get any money back, either, regardless of the promises.

Report Online Scams
If you think you may have been scammed:

  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. If you are outside the U.S., file a complaint at Complaints are entered into the Consumer Sentinel Network, an online database used by hundreds of law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
  • Visit, where you’ll find out how to minimize your risk of identity theft.
  • Report scams to your State Attorney General.

If you get unsolicited email offers or spam, send the messages to
If you get what looks like lottery material from a foreign country through the postal mail, give it to your local postmaster.



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Don't Let it Happen to You

These are just a few of the items offered for sale every day on legitimate online auction sites. They’re also just a small sample of the items used to lure unsuspecting victims into online auction fraud schemes.

Most of the one million-plus transactions that take place each day on these websites are legitimate; just a fraction actually result in some type of fraud.
But even that fraction adds up. According to the latest report of the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), more than 70,000 complaints made to IC3 last year—about one in every four—involved online auction scams.

There are a variety of auction frauds, but here are some of the more common ones to watch out for:

  • Overpayment fraud targets the seller. A seller advertises a high-value item—like a car or a computer—on the Internet. A scammer contacts the seller to purchase the item, then sends the seller a counterfeit check or money order for an amount greater than the price of the item. The purchaser asks the seller to deposit the payment, deduct the actual sale price, and then return the difference to the purchaser.
  • Wire transfer schemes start with fraudulent and misleading ads for the sale of high-value items being posted on well-known online auction sites. When buyers take the bait, they are directed to wire money to the crooks using a money transfer company. Once the money changes hands, the buyer never hears from them again.
  • Second-chance schemes involve scammers who offer losing bidders of legitimate auctions the opportunity to buy the item(s) they wanted at reduced prices. They usually require that victims send payment through money transfer companies, but then don’t follow through on delivery.

And needless to say, in all of these schemes customers never get what they pay for.

Who is behind the scams. Mostly individuals. However, there are exceptions: criminal enterprises from West Africa are especially fond of the overpayment scams, while Romanian crime groups favor the second-chance schemes.
We’re working to address the problem. We’ve had a number of successful auction fraud investigations, worked collaboratively with other agencies, including one in Virginia and one in Texas.

What to do if you’ve been victimized. Go to the Internet Crime Complaint Center or the Federal Trade Commission websites and submit a complaint. The more we know about the extent of the crime—including the specific methods being used to perpetrate it—the more effective we can be in preventing and investigating these scams. You can also report incidents to your local police and to auction companies.

So, how can you avoid being a victim of auction fraud? A few tips:

  • Ask the seller for a phone number and verify it.
  • Beware of buyers who insist on wire transfers as the only form of payment they’ll accept.
  • For big-ticket items, use a legitimate online escrow service that will hold the payment until you receive what you’ve ordered.
  • If you receive an overpayment as a seller, don't cash it but instead ask for the exact purchase price.
  • Don’t ever give out your social security or driver’s license number—a legitimate seller wouldn’t ask.
  • Be skeptical if the price sounds too low.

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Go anywhere on the Internet and you are assured you are being followed, unless this is the first time you are on your computer.  Even then the chances of you doing any type of Web search will automatically begin the transaction of saving information into your computer and on your search site of everywhere you have been or will go on the Internet.

At times this can be nice.  You go to a site, find what you want, but a week later you realize you need to revisit the site.  Now where was it and how do I find it again?  This is where cookies on your computer come in handy.  These little bytes of information will tell you what you want to know by just going to the Internet and select “recent visits”.

On the other hand, many sites are selling information they gather on visitors to marketing companies.  If you regularly go to health and nutrition sites, you may begin to see these types of ads popping up any time you are on a site with ads.  Coincidence?  Not at all, you have been tracked as to where you are going on the Internet through your Internet server, your web search engine, etc.  Most of the time they are only collecting information so marketers can be guided to give you what you like and normally search for on the Internet.

To be sure you know you are on a safe site, look for the site’s privacy policy.  By law it must be clearly listed and a link at least should be found on the home page.  Read the Privacy statement on any website you intend to do business with.  Make sure they state if they are collecting data and if there is a way to opt out.  The Privacy Statement should give the full name of the owners of the site (company name) and contact information via email, phone and/or snail mail. 

A privacy policy is a disclosure document, whose purpose is to inform visitors. When it comes to consumer protection, the FTC and state attorneys general have jurisdiction, and even absent any other applicable laws about privacy the enforcers can and do sue and fine sites whose privacy policies are well-meaning but wrong.  So not only do you need to read the policy on the website, check for a statement that says they will not share any personal information with a third party.  It’s almost impossible to do this.  Anyone who collects data, even if you signed up for their newsletter, will undoubtedly use a database on a web server that will often be through a third party.  It’s not that they will do anything to lose customers by stealing the information; it’s just that you need to realize that very few sites don’t incorporate a third party to assist them with database set up and processing.

Article copyright © 2010-2013

Written by:  Helen Neal, Web Designer


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Information and recommendations are compiled from sources believed to be reliable. The Sheriff’s Office  makes no guarantee as to and assumes no responsibility for the correctness, sufficiency or completeness of such information or recommendations. Other or additional safety measures may be required under particular circumstances. Last Revised: 7/14