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Internet fraud: Understanding it may help you avoid charges

Centuries ago, the idea that one could communicate with someone on another continent, in a matter of seconds, simply by clicking a button would have seemed outrageous. If you were born in or before the sixties, it might seem a bit outrageous to you as well; however, you have come to terms (perhaps even embraced) the age of technology and have taken advantage of it in ways that add convenience (or even profit) to your life.  

Along with the internet came internet crime. Fraud is a key focus of law enforcement agencies who analyze online usage to help people protect their assets and their rights. Various kinds of online fraud exist. If you have basic understanding of each type, you may avoid legal problems while you're surfing the internet, running an online business or hanging out on social network sites. If someone accuses you of illegal internet activity, it's not only critical that you understand what fraud is but that you know where to seek support

If you own a website, make sure it's legitimate 

While it may be challenging for the average person, especially someone with no advanced background in computer technology, to spot a phony website when he or she sees one, it's not so difficult for investigators who are trained to be able to tell the difference between a legitimate website and a fraudulent one. If you take a job working online, for instance, make sure the company you work for is on the up and up.  

A lot of internet crime takes place through fraudulent websites. Such sites often use tricks to get people to provide personal information that those behind the scenes can then use to commit identity theft. Selling fake products is another type of crime that often occurs on fraudulent websites. If you order something online and it never arrives in the mail despite having sent the money, you may be a victim of fraud.  

Fishing or phishing? Know the difference 

When you hear the word fishing, you like think of baiting a hook and tossing a line in the water somewhere; that is, unless you are updated on fraud terminology. Phishing, not fishing, is a type of internet fraud that works through personal emails or websites claiming to be legitimate. Sometimes, it's a combination of both.  

If you get an email that asks you to click a hyperlink, which takes you to a website where you're invited to enter personal information to update a subscription or for some other reason, you'll want to be very leery of participating. Those taking part in fraudulent schemes often use the process to commit phishing.  

Watch out for spyware 

If you download applications to your personal computer, you may fall victim to a spyware crime. Spyware is a form of fraud where programs are hidden in the applications you use. These programs have the capability of destroying information on your computer, or collecting information you have stored there.  

Viruses can be worse than spyware 

There are myriad ways for viruses to attack your computer. These are essentially digital infections that can spread, replicate and do serious damage to your device and to information or items you have stored. There are various types of viruses and schemes where you may receive pop-up notifications that your computer is infected but if you click a certain link, someone will fix it for you.  

Protect your rights and defend yourself 

If you become subject to an investigation that leads to criminal charges against you for internet fraud, you can be hopeful that there are likely several options available for building a strong defense. There are also support networks already in place to help you navigate the criminal justice system.

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