Iowa Attorney General

Internet Fraud & Current Online Scams

The Internet provides a unique window to the world.  With just a click from your desktop computer, tablet or phone, you can shop online with a seller down the street or across the globe.

Unfortunately, dishonest sellers and outright criminals are trolling for victims.  These general tips should help you protect yourself from many Internet scams:

  • When possible, look for established businesses or sellers.  An impressive looking website or name doesn’t necessarily mean the seller is reputable, so know who you are dealing with.  Make sure you know the seller’s physical address and phone number, should there be a problem.
  • Research the seller.  What turns up when you run the seller's name through an Internet search engine?  Do you see complaints?  Check the Better Business Bureau's website at www.bbb.org.
  • If you are buying something, know the item and the price.  The seller should provide a full description of the item, the item's condition if it is not new, the price, and any other fees (such as shipping, handling and return charges).
  • Be wary of unsolicited emails and pop-up advertisements.  Never provide your bank account number, credit or debit card numbers, or other personal information in response to an unsolicited emailed or pop-up advertisement.  While emailed advertisements and pop-up ads may be legitimate, it's also possible that they are "spoofed," meaning they look legitimate but are not.  To be safe, go to a search engine, type in the seller's name, and go directly to the seller's website.
  • When ordering online, use credit cards whenever possible.  Credit cards generally offer more consumer protections than debit cards or pre-paid money cards.  For example, you can dispute a credit card charge if it is fraudulent or if the seller did not live up to the terms of the transaction.  Debit card and pre-paid money card transactions are much closer to cash transactions.
  • Never "wire" money electronically to people you don't know, as you have virtually no consumer protections if something is wrong.  Criminals who seek payment through wire fraud often do so from other countries, which may be beyond the reach of law enforcement.

Contact

Email

consumer@iowa.gov

Phone

515-281-5926
888-777-4590 (outside of the Des Moines metro area)

Fax

‚Äč515-281-6771

Mail

Office of the Attorney General of Iowa
Consumer Protection Division
Hoover State Office Building
1305 E. Walnut Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0106

 

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