December 23, 2011

Internet shopping for the Christmas holiday peaked this year compared to recent years. The U.K. and the U.S. have been main consumers of online stores and this year, Canada has joined them. Internet shopping is convenient, easy to do, and can be a good way to get a good price. You can choose from millions of items and products, check by prices and availability and even pick up brand new items or good looking used ones. Once you have added dozens of cool things, books, toys, clothes, and even food for your shopping-cart on sites like Toys-R-Us, Amazon, Ebay, Gift,com, Sansbury or Best Buy, you pay via a credit card or PayPal. It’s easy and hassle free.

Unfortunately, when looking for good deals, thousands of people have been scammed and lost their hard earned money. The British seem to be the most vulnerable, and the Metropolitan Police Service in London reports that 2011 statistics show a disturbing trend in online scams and fraud. Each year more U.K. citizens are reporting to law enforcement an internet crime or scam, and in most cases, victims have suffered financial loss or identity theft. The threat is growing.

Prosecuting cyber criminals is a major challenge because of the anonymity of the internet. Most law enforcement agencies simply don’t have the time or resource to go after the criminals. The FBI and Interpol receive thousands of complaints and reports daily and are simply not able to go after every case. When private investigators or detectives do get involved and there is a prudent investigation to track these people down, the criminals can be found hiding anywhere. Often in corrupt and developing countries in Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe or West Africa, where the law and order is nearly non-existent. Law from developing countries can be hard to apply in foreign lands, and often times law enforcement and lawyer will face jurisdiction problems in these case.

Whether it’s the Christmas spirit or just holiday cheer that raises the risk this time of year is not clear. Experts say more people are online shopping, so there is more activity and more potential victims. With the higher numbers game, the criminals are also online, trying to land their victim with more people to target online. Phishing scams can be used, fake emails, false and fraudulent offers, fake websites, fraudulent Craigslist ads, auction fraud and many other combinations are possible. The bottom line is criminals want your personal information or payment online.

With many hackers and internet criminals originating from Russia, private investigators in the region, including Russia PI have reported that background checks and verification services are up in Eastern Europe. A company spokesperson said people want to know if a business, person or website is real. They want to know if an offer to buy something is genuine. Investigators say more consumers are learning about the risk for fraud, and using international background checks as a prudent form of insurance to avoid being a victim. It’s a smart and growing trend.

Online scammers have succeeded all these years because they have the computer and software skills to avoid detection by most law enforcement agencies. Experts from China and Russia often develop their skills faster than police and government agencies can keep up.

Be safe when shopping online in the holiday season. Watch out for suspicious emails, especially those asking for you to click on a link or enter your financial or account information. Be skeptical of deals that seem too good to be true. Shop safe, and have a Merry Christmas!!

All the best,

S. Birch
© 2011 S. Birch
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Posted by the Investigators

This copyrighted article was written and published by the editor and site author, S. Birch, or other guest private investigator, expert or contributor as stated.