Consumer Fraud – Internet Usage

The latest data related to Internet usage suggests that more than one billion people around the world classify themselves as Internet users. As Internet usage continues to become more and more prevalent, consumer fraud related to Internet services is expected to rise.

Internet usage fraud is monitored in the United States as a part of the Consumer Sentinel program that was developed by the Federal Trade Commission in 1997. The Sentinel database now contains more than three million consumer fraud and identity theft complaints registered by people located throughout the United States, 685,000 of which were filed from January 1st to December 31st in 2005.

Internet-related consumer fraud accounted for the largest percentage of total complaints registered through the Consumer Sentinel program in 2005. Of the 431,118 consumer fraud complaints, more than 46% were associated with Internet services, accounting for more than $335 million in net monetary losses. The average victim of Internet-related fraud incurred a monetary loss of $2,100 in 2005.

Internet Usage Fraud at the Local Level

The Consumer Sentinel program registered more than 24,000 consumer fraud complaints from Floridians in 2005. The top five consumer fraud categories affecting the people of Florida include:

  • Internet auctions (18% of all consumer fraud complaints)
  • Shop-at-home/catalog sales (12% of all consumer fraud complaints)
  • Foreign money offers (12% of all consumer fraud complaints)
  • Prizes/sweepstakes and lotteries (11% of all consumer fraud complaints)
  • Internet services and computer complaints (9% of all consumer fraud complaints)

Internet-related fraud therefore represented 27% of all consumer fraud complaints registered with the state of Florida.

Internet Usage Fraud – Methods of Payment

According to the Consumer Sentinel database, victims of Internet-related fraud are typically between the ages of 20 and 49; 74% of all insurance fraud cases affected consumers from within this age bracket in 2005. This is in accordance with data indicating that 75% of Internet users are between 18 and 29 years of age. It stands to reason that consumers spending the most amount of time online are more likely to be affected by Internet usage fraud.

Internet usage fraud and credit card fraud are often interrelated because of the fact that credit card payments are the most common method of payment made by consumers online. In 2005, 37% of all Internet-related frauds were conducted using consumers’ credit card information.

Although credit card transactions are the most common method of payment associated with Internet fraud, there are a variety of payment methods that are used to defraud consumers out of money, some of which include:

  • Bank account debit transactions (19%)
  • Wire transfer (17%)
  • Money order (12%)
  • Check (10%)
  • Cash / cash advance (3%)
  • Telephone bill (1%)

Victims of Internet Usage Fraud

It is incredibly difficult for a single victim of Internet-related fraud to voice their complaint; as such, personal injury law firms such as the law offices of Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz make it their business to assist the victims of consumer fraud so that their complaints can be heard. Contact the internet fraud lawyers at Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz to get information about an Internet fraud victim’s right to compensation.