Given the varied and diverse nature of financial scams, it is hard to estimate exactly how much of consumers' hard earned money is lost each year. Despite this, however, it is possible to gain some insight into the magnitude of fraud in the United States, simply by evaluating individual scams and the losses that are accrued by each.
For example, the Paragould Daily Press, estimated that 15 million Americans experience loss through identity theft every single year, which equates to a combined financial deficit of $50 billion in tax payers' money. This sizeable sum of money is just a drop in the ocean when it comes to the total cost of international fraud, however, and the challenge facing the victims is how to protect themselves and ultimately recoup their losses should they fall prey to such scams.
The Most Common Fraudulent Scams
It is important to consider which scams are most prevalent in 2012, and understand the methods used to target different demographics. One of the most common is known simply as advanced fee fraud. Its basic premise is to offer the targeted individual a significant sum of cash in exchange for a small financial payment or the victim's current bank details. The victim is informed that this amount of capital is to cover transaction fees, which of course proves to be as bogus as the promise of a huge cash settlement once the process is completed. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this scam is that it targets ordinary individuals who cannot afford to lose cash in the current economic climate.
This scam is usually conducted online through the medium of email, and this is reflective of the majority of scams that remain popular in 2012. According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IS3), in 2011 reports of remote online fraud rose by 3.4% compared to figures from 2010, with more than 300,000 received complaints accounting for an estimated $485.3 million in losses. Approximately $20 million of this sum was lost through work from home scams, whereby applicants are encouraged to pay a registration fee or offer bank details in order to work remotely and earn huge amounts of cash. Not only does the payoff not materialize, but the unsuspecting victims are often used to launder criminal proceeds during the process.
The Rise of Online Fraud
The perpetrators of these scams may use alternative incentives to entice their victims, but they follow a similar template in terms of targeting lower income individuals, and use the promise of wealth to snare bank details, credit information or even lump sum payments. Not only this, but the scams are primarily conducted remotely through email or online interaction, which make those responsible harder to trace and reprimand. Given the difficulty in locating online fraudsters and the money taken from their prey, there remains a clear emphasis on educating the public in how to detect a scam and be more proactive when protecting finances.
In terms of online fraud, the most important step is to invest in good quality anti-virus and malware software, as this can help to detect emails that are not necessarily sent from the location that they claim to be. While there is a plethora of anti-virus programs that can be sourced for free, the free ones do not offer the comprehensive level of protection afforded by the paid subscription options. Aside from featuring more regular and reliable malware signature updates, paid products are also supported by a better infrastructure and troubleshooting network. Given the fact that spammers and online fraudsters continue to adopt more sophisticated means of tricking people, however, you must also be vigilant when it comes to assessing the content and nature of any email that manages to slip through the net.
Recouping Your Money After a Scam
For those of you who have already lost money at the hands of online fraudsters, however, the most significant challenge is attempting to recoup some or all of your cash. The simplicity of this process is determined by the nature of the fraud committed in the first instance, and how responsibly you acted as a consumer. For example, with remote scams such as the advance fee fraud and work from home schemes, it is extremely difficult to reclaim any of your lost money, simply because the perpetrators almost exclusively operate overseas and coerce their victims into offering direct payments or bank details voluntarily.
The Bottom Line
With so many diverse and sophisticated types of fraud thriving in 2012, you must know your own rights as a consumer and also understand how tricksters are looking to steal your hard earned money. Whether you are targeted by online advance fee fraudsters who solicit your money or identity thieves that steal cash directly and without your prior knowledge, however, it is clear that prevention is better than a cure and by adopting a responsible approach to your personal security you can help to keep your assets safe.